I recognize the number that pops up, smile and flip open my cell.
The news is not good. She has had extensive testing and the conclusions drawn are that her cancer Ė recently sliced from her chest Ė has invaded other parts of her body. I am silent.
She sighs. Her voice is strong, vigilant. It shakes slightly. My thoughts tumble and twist as I fight to get something, anything out of my mouth, hopefully in the form of encouragement.
I mumble something to the effect that I will stand with her, pray for her; it all sounds rote and insufficient. I can feel her smile through the phone. I know you will, she says.
I donít know what to say. She knows that too, she says, and tells me to just be there for her, just be there if she wants to cry or talk. That I donít have to fix it. And I wonder about this. What is it about me that needs to fix things? As if I have that power? And what if the personís life doesnít need fixing at that particular point? What if I am dead wrong about the problem, and the solution too? What if there is a bigger picture?
I am speechless and inadequate and small in face of my friendís Ė I dare to think it Ė imminent death. We say our goodbyes, and she is strong and determined and I am quiet and humbled, tears staining my cheeks. I click the phone shut and throw it down. I put both hands over my face and pray, hard, and beg God for mercy for her. She needs to know her unborn grandchildren, I say. Her girls need her, God, they are just starting out. Please be merciful and spare her life. I bargain with God for 25 more years for her. I have been taught to pray specifically.
Drained, I move haze-like through the next few hours, wondering what I can offer her. I donít know how much time she has left; if it will be energy-filled, or a sea of nausea that will chain her to her bed. She has told me the next month will be experimental, and after that, many rounds of chemotherapy. I know what that means. Months of barely dragging through life.
We are separated by 1500 miles and around $350. Tomorrow, I will invest in our friendship and buy a plane ticket for her and we will celebrate her life like thereís no tomorrow. And she will forget, for a few days, that she is sick, and we will remind each other that this life is not all there is. We will toast each other with an excellent, expensive red wine. We will toast our friendship. We will toast the journey. We have long decided we must have wraparound porches and porch swings on our mansions in heaven, so we will toast this too. And if she gets there before me, I will cry, but not for her. For me.