So I will be honest and say I didn’t know my friend, Helen, at all when we were in high school. I don’t think we ever took the same class in all 4 years we were there and she was someone we’d looked for with little success over the years as we planned our reunions every 5 years. But somehow she found us on our high school Facebook page a few years ago and she immediately brought life and a great spirit to our little sorority of DC girls. She was a truly welcome addition.
And I never met her husband, Dale, at all but when Dale embarked on his journey to battle a dreadful disease, we all learned so much about him that we all felt like we knew him. He was tireless in his determination to triumph over his illness, willing to consider and try alternative treatments and unwavering in his belief – their belief, truth be told – that he would beat this. Our friend, Mary, who I wrote about earlier started a Facebook page that his friends and co-workers and colleagues joined as a way to support Dale and Helen and offer whatever help we could. We all became #dalestrong.
Then about 18 months ago when things became particularly grim, they made a decision as a team that they were done with treatments and were going to enjoy their lives without medical intervention. And I was in awe, and still am, of their ability to focus on what was important. None of us know how much time we have left in this world and too often we focus on such unimportant stuff. The chores to be done, the over scheduled days of our lives, the minutia that we somehow convince ourselves is important. We all waste so much of our time and energy doing what we think we are supposed to do when what we should be doing when we can is focusing on those we love and who love us.
And when Dale left this world a few short weeks after, I was honored and humbled when Helen asked me to share the news on social media to let everyone who knew him – whether in person or just through word of mouth – that he was no longer suffering. I grieved deeply for a man I had never met but felt I knew from all the stories Helen had told us about him, all the pictures she had shared of him fishing or exercising or just going on a walk. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that many of my fellow classmates felt as I did – that we had lost a friend.
Since then, Helen has been amazing, a warrior in every sense of the way. She delivers Meals on Wheels, she advocates for herself, she tells us how blessed she was to be part of such a great love story. And she has been a great friend to me, being supportive when called for and giving me an ass-kicking talk when that is what I needed. Her strength has been extraordinary, like her love for Dale was and is extraordinary.
I am and always will be #dalestrong but I know we are #helenstrong too. She is a force to be reckoned with and I am blessed she is my friend.