I’ve been celebrating the start of spring, so bad news hit like a shock.
A dear friend’s breast cancer has returned, and after many years of remission, appears to be spreading fast.
Most of us react with fear at such sudden news, and I could feel the sadness seeping in, as I worried about my friend battling this terrible disease yet again.
I was walking along a Southern Oregon beach, and sifting the news with a heavy heart — and, it seemed, heavy footsteps in the sand.
Yet every thought of my friend was celebratory. More than most, she teaches us all how to live.
We met while working together in San Francisco, and I turned to her most days for advice on dealing with bureaucracy. She smoothed the way for a befuddled newbie, and taught me how to laugh at some of the petty annoyances of office work. She eased my workload.
Soon, we became friends over a shared excitement about exploring the city, hunting for the best, cheap restaurants, best vintage stores, and the best views. She shared all she knew about her favorite city, and we plotted travels that we would take when/if our finances improved.
We also share a delight in martinis: One of my best memories of San Francisco is the night I lifted a martini with my friend, and our partners, to shout out a toast — to life! — in a noisy, downtown bar.
I was going to school full-time too then, so brought tales of exams + essays + internships to work, delighted to share my passion for a new career. My friend shared her passion for baseball.
Her excitement about the Giants taught me a lot about the energy of San Francisco, and its loyalty to sports teams. My friend traveled to Arizona every year for spring training, and would return with reports about the promise of this player or that. For someone with little to no interest in sports, I always found her enthusiasm infectious.
We promised to go to a game together.
But then the recession hit, and I had to relocate, and our plans to meet in another city didn’t happen. Whenever I returned to San Francisco, we would have lunch at our favorite Thai restaurant, a cheap and cheerful place, with abundant, good food.
(My friend’s enthusiasm for baseball is matched by her enthusiasm for eating. Owners of the Thai restaurant so appreciated her zeal for their cuisine that they donated a serene, private room for one of our office parties. We were surrounded by Buddhist sculptures and art, and dined in unaccustomed elegance.)
I was thinking about how well my friend lives, celebrating the Giants and her family and friends. She’s always pushing the rest of us, too engrossed in the minutiae of daily life, to get out and seize life, to explore and discover and celebrate. She always has some new discovery to share too.
Another San Francisco memory: I walked to work every day, rejoicing at my new career and my new city. One particularly soggy morning, a car pulled to the curb and a friendly voice urged me to abandon my umbrella and leap in.
My friend explained that she sometimes drove from the suburbs, when she stayed with her daughter, and she couldn’t wait to return to the city. We laughed at our good fortune in meeting unexpectedly in San Francisco’s famous fog.
In the years since I left, I’ve often thought about that morning because I couldn’t imagine meeting anyone with such joy so early, amid dismal weather.
Today, I’m recalling that moment, and I’m filled with gratitude for a friend who has taught me so much about savoring life.
To life!, my dear friend, to life!