Blog

Eulogy for Rachel, Part 1

February 9th, 2012

Last night I dreamt of Rachel. We were both young and healthy and on an adventure together. At one point it seemed like we were in the South Pacific, and at another it seemed like the Mediterranean. No matter. Our adventure was about meeting people and sharing experiences, not seeing the sights.

As my grief over her death sinks in, I am starting to see the shape of the hole it has left in my life. This dream offered me a clue. Our friendship took place through an almost unspeakable experience, not a fixed place in time.

If I were to answer the question, ‘What did you do today?’ most likely I would describe activities like running errands, shuttling children, going to work, and cooking dinner. Rachel was not a part of the identifiable, geographically-bound fabric of my life.

But if you asked me what was in my heart, where my mind was, what concerned or upset or preoccupied me, I would say the questions of my health and mortality, the pain and injustice of being young with cancer, the persistent experience of people misunderstanding this disease that has upended my life. It is there that you would immediately understand who Rachel was to me and the nature of what we shared.

If my life is a quilt, our friendship did not live in the panels. It lived in the seams.

In fact, I have never been in the same place at the same time as Rach. We had plans to meet in real life, in a gathering of our online friends, next month. Although we had never occupied the same physical space, we shared a frightening psychological one. We both had breast cancer at an improbably young age. I have not had metastatic cancer but I lost my 36 year old stepbrother to it less than 2 years before my own diagnosis.

So where did our friendship live? It was born on our blogs, blossomed over email and social networks, took root on skype and phone chats. We were friends in all the in between places of everyday life.

We shared this experience, this hell of cancer. We talked about many things but one of our recurring themes was the Stuff You Can’t Write About. Although we were both plain spoken and unflinching, there was still territory in this shitstorm too personal, too raw and devastating, to broadcast to outsiders. I knew I could share those places with Rach and she with me. Even if we did not know firsthand exactly what the other spoke of, we could count on each other to listen and understand.

The emptiness I am left with is distinctly modern in its shape. A void in my twitter stream; a dim bubble on my Skype. But the depth of our bond belies the superficiality of those electronic connections. Our friendship went beyond the physical to the realm of the existential.

My life may look the same on the outside but it is lonelier without Rachel around to share it with.

—–

There have been many beautiful tributes to Rachel on different blogs and I am sure there will be more to come.

Here are some of them:

Rachel’s Obituary on her blog

Jody Schoger’s tribute

Gayle Sulik’s collection of Rachel’s incredible comments on the Pink Ribbon Blues blog

Marie remembers on Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

AnnMarie talks about Rachel’s contribution to our community

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012 at 6:31 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

29 Responses to “Eulogy for Rachel, Part 1”

  1. February 9, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Lani, this is a beautiful tribute to your friendship, whether it was in the same room or not. You had more contact with Rachel than I had, but I feel her loss just the same. We cared about each other because of our common bond and now it’s broken and I’m so very sad. I can’t believe she’s no longer in her house in New Jersey with Newman at her side. It’s just not right. Virtual doesn’t make it less real. Thank you for sharing here.

    • February 9, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Thank you, Stacey. Her loss will be felt by our community for some time to come. Love to you.

  2. February 9, 2012 at 9:13 am

    She moved from words on the screen into my heart and that is where she stayed.

    Thank you, Lani, for showing how one person, one life created a new and better world for all of us.

    Love,
    Jody

    • February 9, 2012 at 10:28 am

      Thank you, Jody. I know you understand. <3

    • Lauree
      February 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Yes, Jody, exactly what you said. It’s been a gut-wrenching week. The loss of Rachel & Susan keeps flying back around to conk me in the head again. I’m so angry. I’ve found myself dwelling not just on their loss & the impact but how to support & comfort those closer/closest to her. I find myself severely lacking. I’m so sorry.

      Lani, this is beautiful. Perfectly written. Though obviously you knew her better, more closely, than so many of us, in bell-curve-style I believe you described how we all feel. :-(

  3. February 9, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Thank you for this….I cherish my friends Amy and Francesca who held me through my own improbably young bouts with cancer. We’ve lost touch, other than the occasional FB ping, as we’ve moved on to these new healthy chapters of our lives, but they are true friends even though we’ve never been in the same place at the same time. Love to them, love to you, and love to Rachel on her new adventure.

  4. Kristen
    February 9, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Oh Lani. The sisterhood you shared with Rachel was an important part of your journey. I’m so so sorry.

  5. Annie MacDonald Warren
    February 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I have Lung Cancer but I have often read your blogs, Cancer is cancer! Today your blog hit me extremely hard. I felt so deeply your bond to Rachel. I have a best friend on here that I have known for 15 yrs & now I must somehow find a way to meet her in real life. I have been that touched by you. I am sure Rachel will look down on you & see a continuation of the battle. You had so much love for each other. Thank you for sharing yourr feelings with us today.
    Annie xoxoxoxo

  6. February 9, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Beautifully written, my friend.

    Katie

  7. February 9, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Lani,
    Thank you for this lovely tribute. I miss her so much too. The void she left behind, though intangible, is very real and I think we are only beginning to grasp its enormity. Love to you.

  8. February 9, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Lovely. Thank you for putting into words what many of us feel about the ties we have to one another. xo

    • February 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you Lani for putting into words how so many of us feel.

      Lisa

  9. February 9, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Well done. I especially love the idea of friendship existing in the seams of the quilt of life. I’m so glad that you and so many others are writing about her.

  10. Efrat Roman
    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Going through breast cancer in Israel, was a very lonely experience, when it came to criticizing the system, or asking for answers and change.
    Finding you Lani, and Rachel and Gayle and Jody, and the BC Action, was empowering, educating, and supporting in so many ways.

    I want to thank you Lani- for introducing me to the wealth of Rachel’s writing, sometime 2 years ago.
    I would quote Jody, who put into words, exactly what I felt, as a long distance reader -
    “How one person, one life created a new and better world for all of us…”

    My deep condolences

  11. February 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Very, very beautifully said Lani. I’m glad one of the in between places is Skype. I never got to meet Rachel either. But I feel like I did. x

  12. February 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Oh, yes, Lani. Oh, yes. The shape of that hole is wide and deep. xoxo

  13. February 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I send you my love, Lani. I know the ache. I think you captured the entire world of “online support” in this simple and beautiful statement:

    “If my life is a quilt, our friendship did not live in the panels. It lived in the seams.”

    Precious words.

    Love <3 <3 <3

    AnneMarie

  14. February 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    “If my life is a quilt, our friendship did not live in the panels. It lived in the seams” what a beautiful image. The seams of my quilt are getting bigger all the time!

  15. February 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Lani,
    What a beautiful tribute and proof that the friendships we forge online can be very real. Your line about your friendship not living in the panels but in the seams is pure poetry. Sending you all the best.

  16. Elizabeth
    February 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Every time I read about Rachel from one of her friends, I feel I get to know her a little more. Such a beautiful piece, Lani. I’m so sorry you lost your friend, although it seems she was so much more than that.

  17. February 9, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    A beautiful memorial to your friend and confidant.

    May we each have one just like her!

    You have my deepest sympathies.

  18. February 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Some of the best bonds are made in the shared experiences. *Hugs*

  19. Irish
    February 9, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Great post. I am a friend of Anthony since high school. I became very close with Rachel. She touched so many.

  20. February 10, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    CB,

    What an incredibly beautiful post and tribute to Rachel and really to all who knew her. For those of us who never had the opportunity to meet her in person . . . you explained so well how despite not meeting physically there is a connection that happens, can happen – as you say – born out of this thing we have in common. This ugly thing that happened. The fears and worries and fallout from this thing can really only be fully understood by someone else who has been there, is there, or worse, has what we fear. Thank you for writing this, it is so beautiful.

    Lisa

  21. February 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    I know exactly how you feel for I felt that way about Sarah, the Carcinista. I was friendly with Rachel and mourn her loss, but with Sarah I felt a very tight bond. When she died right before I became metastatic, I was inconsolable. To this day, I want to talk, TO HER, nobody else, about endless treatment and pain and constant SEs that Stage IV brings and how do you make peace with it all? She and I were sympatico, as she would say. I know you will miss Rachel in the same way as I miss Sarah. These online friendships are very real. I love the way you said she was in the seam of your life. Beautiful.

  22. February 12, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Lani, it’s such a bummer to lose these energizing bloggesses. They would be amazed at all the tributes to them from all the blogs around the world. What an impact they had! We must not disappoint them. We must take up the torch and exude the feistiness that was their trademark. XOXO, Jan

  23. February 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Dear CB
    I’m so sorry for your pain.
    You write beautifully.
    The connection will continue.
    Love Mimi

  24. February 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

    I love this, Lani. “If my life is a quilt, our friendship did not live in the panels. It lived in the seams…The emptiness I am left with is distinctly modern in its shape. A void in my twitter stream; a dim bubble on my Skype. But the depth of our bond belies the superficiality of those electronic connections. Our friendship went beyond the physical to the realm of the existential.”

    I keep seeing Rachel’s avatar, emails, comments. I hear her voice in my head, feel her presence in my heart. The void is a chasm. Another of our sisters gone.

  25. February 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Lani,
    This is so beautifully written. I love the imagery and the fact that you’ve given us a window into your beautiful friendship. My heart is with you and all of our sisters who were so close to Rachel. Unfortunately, it’s only in her passing that I have really gotten to know her amazing work and the lasting legacy she has left in the fight on breast cancer, but also in the hearts of our community. Through all of your tributes, you have made her personality, courage, and feisty writing come ever more alive for me.
    Big love and light to you.
    Terri

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>