Once again cancer has come and taken away someone I love dearly. The first time, grief knocked me on my butt and rolled me over and over until I was in a deep, dark hole. I had to fight my way out. This time, it left me weak, breathless and wanting to just jump inside the hole. To hide would be better than facing the truth. Oh, the truth…you don’t know its real meaning until there is nothing you can do to change it.

Some people sing, dance or travel when their heart is hurting, but I write. I allow my feelings to wash through me, and as they are about to exit I am ready with pen and paper to give life to my feelings. This way, when sadness comes again and I need the strength again, I have my own words to guide me through. So after crying, living in denial and withdrawal, and feeling angry, I am now able to write about my feelings — my feelings about my amazing, real and fabulous friend, Mrs. Cathy Peden. 

Cathy and I didn’t grow up together. We met when we were both women in life transitions. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not big on transition—especially making new friends. However, when I met Cathy, it was an instant connection. Her presence was filled with so much truth and love that it was hard to resist becoming her friend.

From the minute I met her, she gave me permission to be myself. There was no need to go through formal introductions. It was like she gave me a nod that said, “You good, be you.” It wasn’t long before she had taken on a big sister role, showing me how to see the big picture. She was there with her wisdom if I became angry when my plans had not gone as I hoped or if I got scared because life was pushing me in a direction I wasn’t ready to take.

I remember when I would say something a little over-the-top, she would say my name and sound out every letter — S-u-n-t-i-a — which was her way of telling me, “Girl, you know that’s not right.” But she never spoke with judgment, always with love. She was so true: true to her family, friends, students and, most of all, herself. She was always pushing me to be better, to go higher. I would tell her something I was doing or working on, and she would say, just so calm, “I told you. I’m so proud of you.” It’s like nothing I did surprised her, like she was just waiting on me to reach what she already knew I could accomplish.

Cathy had no need for the thrills, the shoulda, woulda, couldas. Realness is what she preferred. Throughout her challenges with cancer, she continued to smile, reach out and be a wonderful wife, mother, daughter and friend. Her life was so precious, and I will forever remember her laugh, her words and those one-of-a-kind facial expressions. 

I remember having a girls’ night out with Cathy. She started to cry as she talked about her struggles with cancer and her boys. Oh, how she loved them. I used to feel that it was just me who she looked after, but now I see she showed so many the same love, patience and kindness that she showed me. How she did it I don’t know, but I am grateful her heart was big enough to love so much.

Grief requires stillness.

There are some experiences you can push through, breathe through and even talk through. But with grief, you have to do all three plus one more: stay still. In the stillness is where grief says hello. And even if we don’t speak back, we have to accept it is there. For me, staying still is the hardest because in the stillness you are able to truly feel the pain of loss. You hear your heartbeat, and you must face the undeniable truth that you are still alive and must move forward without your loved one.

But the question is how will you move forward? I know people say that time heals but I dare to say that time does help you to breathe easier without falling apart but only LOVE will heal your broken heart. The Love you shared with your loved one, the Love you give to those around you and the Love you receive from others.

The song below brings tears to my eyes, but it was comforting in the days when Cathy was in the hospital and passing. It is the song I listen to when questions overwhelm my mind and the dark hole seems not so bad. I think it truly reflects her spirit — that she did all she could and gave it a good fight. It helps me be still with the grief I still feel.

So I challenge you all…

Is there someone who you love but don’t see everyday? Maybe you see them often but take their presence for granted? Are there friends who you have stopped talking to because of a misunderstanding or a family feud that has taken on a life of its own? I challenge you to take the first step and call them and tell them how you feel. Let Cathy’s passing show you that life can be taken away so fast and words can be left unspoken.

Or, if you’ve already lost someone dear to you, use this space in the comments below to write them a tribute.  I’ll start…

Cathy, you are forever my friend — muah, hugs and kisses. You rocked it, and there will never be another like you. Your words will forever be ingrained in my head: “It’s your life, whatever will make you happy.”

I will continue to stand for Cathy, my brave friend, who touched my heart and left a mark forever. I will take her with me wherever I go, so she will never be forgotten.

She is my hero.