Missing some friends…

It’s not “Dear Cancer:”……  it’s more like hey you…. a-hole !

I just learned that you took another friend from me this morning. 

I am so mad right now that it’s best if I don’t type what I am thinking about you.

I will focus my attention on my friends….. R.I.P. … Barry Goslin (pre-deceased by his Mom, Ruby Goslin)… both were cancer fighters.  I have to admit that I am feeling guilty today because I have been very lucky so far on this journey in cancer-land, not everyone gets good news and I know one day the good news may stop for me, but I still can’t help but feel guilty, it’s human nature.  I would guess that Barry was in his late forties or early fifties, too young to die.

I met Barry 6 years ago.  His parents were my new next door neighbours at the time.

He lived in Ancaster and he would come visit his parents a few times a year to help out with stuff around the house.  During some visits, he would bring his 2 teen-age daughters along who were equally as nice and loving.  All of the Goslin family made me feel like I was part of their family.  His Dad was Bill… he passed away the year we met him.  His Mom was Ruby, she passed away approx 2 years ago.   Ruby and I became very close after Bill passed away.  She was alone in this house now and it was shortly after my grandmother passed away when she lost her husband, so I adopted Ruby as my grandma.  She became that special person that I would watch out for.  It turns out that Ruby would out-shine me.  She was the one doing special things for Rick and I.  We would come home late from work and 10 minutes after we arrived home, our doorbell would chime and there she was with home-made, hot chicken soup, ready to eat for supper.  (she knew I couldn’t/didn’t cook).  We would leave the house at 7:00 am and she would already have our driveway cleared of snow.  This woman was 72 years of age with so much life and energy, I couldn’t keep up to her.    One night she called me in the middle of the night asking if I could take her to the hospital because she wasn’t feeling good.  She didn’t want an ambulance to come to her house because she didn’t want to disturb the neighbourhood.  Can you believe her?  This was Ruby, always putting other people first, even when she was feeling terribly ill.  We did this a couple of times, she didn’t want to worry her family either.  One day a couple of weeks later, Ruby called me.  She said, I am calling to let you know why I am not feeling well, the doctor tells me that I have leukemia.  Ok, I thought, what kind of meds will you need?  What does that mean?  All I knew about leukemia was that I thought it was a disease that was manageable, I didn’t know that it was cancer of the blood in reality.  She said “I have a couple of months”.  I asked her “a couple of months of taking medicine?”, and she said “no, I have a couple of months at best to live”.  I was shocked, this strong woman was calling me to tell me she was dying.  I just didn’t want to swallow the news.  I am not ready to lose another person I have come to love and cherish.  Although I wanted to rush right over to her house just to hug her, I gave her privacy for the evening.  The last thing she needed was to see my crying in front of her to bring her spirits down, I needed to get my act together first and cry my tears in private.  I thought I could be strong for her the next day.  So the next day I visited with Ruby in her living room, she was in her night gown in the afternoon and she was always dressed very nicely and always presentable, it was wierd to see her in her p.j.’s, it then hit me that this was serious news.  We sat on her couch together, held hands and we said things to each other that I am glad we had the opportunity to say.  I told her that I had mentally and selfishly adopted her as another grandma to me and that I loved her very much.  I appreciated all of our visits when either I was helping her out with something like hanging Christmas decorations or when she helped me out with gardening or using her clothes line, etc.  We had some deep, honest, raw emotional talks over the years about how she coped living alone without her husband Bill.  I always listened and thought, could I ever be this strong without Rick?  I just can’t go there.

One day, before Ruby was diagnosed, she asked me if I could be late for work one morning because she wanted to know if I would accompany her to “bring a buddy to breakfast” event that was held at a local senior activity centre where she liked to play cards and volunteer.  I was honoured that she thought of me to invite, as Ruby had many, many friends.  I graciously accepted.  It was nice to take a detour out of every day busy life to sit back and hang out with some seniors for an hour, especially Ruby.   I always referred to her as “My Ruby”, not my neighbour or my friend, she was more than that, she was “My Ruby”. 

We became quite the gardening buddies.  We were always chatting through the fence or taking care of each other’s little weeds, sharing cuttings, setting up the sprinklers, shopping at garden centres together ( I would help carry her bags of dirt for her ).  Another memory I have is of a Christmas gift that Ruby gave to me.  It was a planter, in the shape of rubbery garden boots and it basically just looked like someone poured concrete over the boots and made a nice planter out of it.  I loved it.  I still have it on my back deck to this day and think of Ruby when I look at it.   The first time I looked at it after I received my own diagnosis, I thought… how ironic…. now I have to walk in these boots.  First Ruby fought cancer, now I am fighting cancer. 

The best memory I have of “My Ruby” is one of the last things that she said to me.  “Karrie, you know that I think of you and love you as if you were the fourth child that Bill and I never had”.  Wow, what a special moment that I will never forget, to be a recipient of such beautiful words, of such beautiful feeling.  She then proceeded to tell me that eight years prior she battled breast cancer and with this new diagnosis she was not prepared to do the battle again without her precious Bill, she was giving in and was ready to go.  Ruby only lived 4 weeks after she intially told me that she had leukemia.  Just as always, she put her mind to it and she accomplished it.

I was honoured when her son Barry and daughter Gwen came to visit me and they asked if I would join their family and be one of Ruby’s pallbearers.  Of course, I would.  I will carry “My Ruby” wherever she needs to go.  So we laid our Ruby to rest beside her precious Bill, it was so fitting that my gardening buddy was buried on Earth Day. 

I have visited her every Earth Day since that day, I clean her little garden and plant a few flowers in front of their head stone and think of all of the wonderful memories in only a six year time frame. 

Dear Ruby…. now you have another angel, your precious son Barry to be with you for eternal life.  Please watch over me and my family and friends,  I will walk in your boots as long as it takes.

Below is a photo of Ruby and Bill, chatting it up with us in the backyard.

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