Cancer. What an awful word. Never in a thousand years I thought that I would lose one of my dearest people in the world in such a short period of time.
Back in 2018 I decided to start taking pottery classes. I needed something to keep my creativity going. Even though I loved writing and painting, I always felt as if I needed something that would be more of a challenge. Near my place there was an art institute and I decided to give it a go.
And there I met her: Laura. She irradiated such a positive and calming energy that it made me feel at ease from minute one. She was a ray of sunshine. I immediately saw her as a motherly figure, not a teacher. She taught me the basics and by the end of the lesson, I knew I had gained a friend, a confidant.
At the end of March I had a cholecystectomy and she kept sending me messages asking how I was doing. FYI, we had only known each other and the rest of the girls for less than a month. I couldn't wait to go back and share my Friday afternoons with them. We would drink yerba mate, listen to music and have some biscuits while we created amazing things with our hands.
We loved the same kind of music, we made the same stupid jokes and we could talk about anything, no strings attached.
Then the pandemic hit and our pottery lessons were put on hold. It felt empty but we kept in touch with spontaneous FaceTime sessions every now and then.
In the midst of it all I had started my fibromyalgia treatment, had lots of tests done and Lau was always asking how I was doing...like a mother would.
2021 began. I still remember the day. March 14th.
"Eri, gorgeous. How is your treatment going? I waited a while before asking you because I didn't know if it was working. Things for me healthwise are not looking good. I'm afraid I won't be able to teach this year. Whatever's wrong with me needs to be treated by an oncologist. I can't believe that I'm still living my life as I normally would. Anyway, it is what it is, I have to give the best of me."
This time it was my turn to stand by her. I was in total shock. All I wanted was to take that pain away. I was angry. Why her? Why now that we couldn't be together? Why in the middle of a pandemic? At this point I still had hope. Treatment was available. My grandma had overcome it, my auntie too...twice. Laura was strong, she was going to be okay.
August arrived in a blink of an eye. Somehow I had managed to avoid getting covid, Laura too.
"Eri, Danila told me that she is free on Saturdays in the afternoons for pottery classes. What do you think? Is 4pm to 6pm ok?"
In my head I felt that everything was slowly going back to normal. That first class at her place was like a reunion of best friends that hadn't seen each other in ages. She had two dogs who loved being held, the music was back, this time we drank tea but the biscuits were always the main protagonists on the dining table. We couldn't hug, we still had our masks on. For those two hours we forgot about our health problems and just enjoyed each other's company.
The end of 2021 approached and her health had deteriorated quite a lot but she never canceled any of the lessons. Not once. Her hair had fallen out and she was sometimes wearing a wig, she was thinner than usual because she couldn't eat, her feet were swollen. She had told me that the cancer had spread. I knew what that meant but i refused to believe it. She looked just fine from the outside.
Our last lesson before Christmas was special for the saddest of reasons.
We would now hug when we got to her place and when we left. This time one of her daughters was helping a lot, I could see that Lau was too weak and a bit lost.
In my mind I knew...but I didn't want to acknowledge it.
Before we left that day she gave us a hug...the biggest of hugs. She reminded us to take care of each other, to listen to our bodies, to love unconditionally and she told us over and over again that she loved us and that we had helped her so much to feel good during her illness. Danila and I looked at each other and reciprocated the hug and the love words.
When the door closed and we reached the corner of the street, we cried our eyes out.
Lau got hospitalized just before Christmas and asked to be discharged for the New Year. She was that stubborn, still. She wanted to be with her husband, her daughters and grandchildren.
January was weird. Lau didn't respond to our messages as often and by the end of the month it was her daughter the one in charge of her phone. I prayed more than ever in order for her to feel the least possible pain. I thought about her day and night.
January 31st, 2022
I got the message that I dreaded the most.
"Hello girls. I'm Eduardo, Laura's husband.Laura is not physically with us anymore. She left us today at midday. We are not having a funeral. She didn't want her loved ones to see how she looked in her final days. She wanted for you to remember her like that bubbly and happy person she was. She loved you girls dearly. She even decided to teach you pottery even during her treatment because you were her medicine, what kept her happy. I thank you for the bottom of my heart for all those beautiful moments you gave her."
I felt my heart being broken in a million pieces. I had never felt such pain. I could feel my heart aching, I cried so loudly that even my mum got worried. Such was my heartbreak that I ended up with a fever for the rest of the week. What now? How to move on? What was I going to do?
I was going through a severe depression and this heartbreak wasn't helping much. I didn't think I was going to be able to go back to her place to get my things.
But I had to.
I can't explain what I felt when I went through that gate and through that wooden door. I needed to keep myself together: for Lau's family, for the girls, for my sanity. My hands were shaking, I still couldn't come across the fact that she was gone. My mind was in distress. I tried to keep a straight face. I put my things in my bag and then one of the girls said some comforting words...and that's when it hit me: I was ugly crying again, gasping for air. I needed to leave. Just like that last time of seeing Lau giving me a hug at the door before saying goodbye, I looked at her daughter and gave her the warmest of hugs. All of the ten blocks that separated her house from mine I cried. I cried like I had never cried before. What was the point of keeping my pottery stuff now?
But then I remembered. All of us four, her students, had helped her without even knowing it. We held her hand, we picked her up, we gave her comfort and the assurance that even in the darkest of days, the sun shines. I know she's not in pain anymore, and even if my heart is still breaking...I know she's here with me, singing along to our favorite Harry Styles song.
#Cancer #Grief #Friendship #heartbreak #Empathy #Love