Marilyn Downs died at around seven o’clock last night, February 2nd, 2007. I saw her at four o’clock. Her children were with her. We had been friends for seven years, almost exactly, since I was nineteen years old and she had just turned forty.
I don’t want to think about it. Of course, I don’t want the sadness and the grief, no one does, but I accept them. They are there whether I think about Marilyn or not. I don’t want to think about it, because I do not believe it will do any good.
Of course, I think about her anyway. I remember I didn’t like her right away. I didn’t understand her. She wasn’t as warm and outgoing like our other friends, but in that way, she was very much like me. I didn’t see it for a long time. I thought we were so different. We weren’t. She was strong and smart and insecure. She was passionate and felt things deeply. She was professional and loved her job and a perfectionist at whatever she did.
I will grieve for Marilyn, as I have for this past year. I have rarely written about her. I felt this was not my story to tell. I told her I would write about her after she was dead and couldn’t get mad at me. Marilyn was deeply private about so much, different from me in that respect. I told her I would tell the world what a good woman she was, a good friend, and a good mother.
She had cancer, peritoneal miesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos. She was working with lawyers to get some compensation from the many companies, solvent and insolvent, which manufactured and used asbestos. It was for her children. She knew she would not use it. We all knew, from the day we went to see her in the hospital in September of 2005, when she showed us her “zipper” of surgical staples running from her pelvis to her sternum. She tried chemo, to buy time, and then worked with her doctors to balance her drugs to keep herself pain free. I’m sure it was a novel experience for the oncologists to have a pharmacist as a patient who knew more about her drugs than they did. She went into the hospice house last fall, when juggling her meds became to complicated.
Now here house sits empty, a few miles from my parents house. She made sure it was in good shape to be sold. She gives me credit for the bamboo floors throughout, because I first mentioned them to her. Her little BMW convertible will be sold. It is forest green. At first I worried about her love of that car, compensation for her failed marriage. Perhaps it was, but she enjoyed it so much, it the end I could not begrudge her this attachment.
I worry now about her dog, Max, a loving coon hound with sad eyes. He has seizures every now and then. He has gone with Erin, her seventeen year old daughter, who moved in with her father before Marilyn went into hospice. They used to bring him to visit Marilyn. He will not understand.
I do not entirely understand. So I won’t think about it, any more than I need to. I’ll go on breathing in an out, and let time heal this pain. I’ll work and go to class and say hello to her children when I see them on campus. Her sons go to school here now. And I’ll remember her, today, and tomorrow, and every February 2nd and September 26th, her birthday.
Marilyn was a good friend.