“Pam passed earlier today.” That was the simple message from my wife. It was something I knew was inevitable from our short discussions about her friend and co-worker Pam. You see Pam was diagnosed with cancer several months ago. Before this morning I didn’t expect to return to the subject of life and death for a long time. While waiting to board my plane at the airport I read a couple of Facebook posts from my wife and her co-worker. The pain of their loss came through and my mind returned once again to my earlier writings.
I wrote a story called Vapors of a Life Well Lived earlier this year on the anniversary of the sudden and tragic passing of a friend several years ago. The point of the story being that although we all pass on we leave behind a legacy and memory for those we knew. That certainly was the case with Pam. Although I had met her on several occasions I can’t say I knew her. However, over the last several months, I was struck by the closeness of the office my wife works in. It is a small office of people who have generally worked together for many years. Over ten years in the case of my wife.
It is so much different than the story of my friend Tim who passed away suddenly in an ocean accident. Pam’s situation was the extreme opposite. An initial case of not feeling well, eventually leading to a diagnosis of cancer. Then came the operations and chemo, the ups and downs, the hopes and fears that eventually gave way to resignation, and a slow and painful goodbye. I don’t know which is worse; in truth, they are both hard and seemingly unfair. In one sense it is like taking off a large band-aid. Do you pull it off fast or slow and steady? Both methods leave you hurting. And while the band aid only hurts for a short time, the loss of a friend and loved one never really ends.
Pam worked in the office for 25 years and was, in a sense, the steady force; the person who could keep things in perspective and lift up others when the sailing was rough. The person you knew you could count on to be a positive influence. So when she shared her initial diagnosis there was a certain disbelief; the inevitable question, “why?” Questions to which we never really find an adequate answer.
From what I could tell Pam was upbeat, a fighter who was worried more about those around her then herself. Eventually accepting that the battle was lost, she kept her head up. When she could no longer physically lift her head or communicate verbally, my wife said Pam looked her in the eye and they understood. Like my friend Tim, Pam was able to leave behind a legacy and example for her daughter; how to stand tall when life seems unfair. And make no mistake, life is not always fair.
I’m convinced some things will never really make sense to us. And yet as it is for Tim, we can rest assured that Pam is in a better place. No more pain and suffering; for her, the start of a “forever” that we can’t start to comprehend. The apostle Paul wrote that to “to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” I love life and wouldn’t change mine for anything; How is it then that death is gain? If that is true then what is the point of life? I think it has to do with our life being that vapor; in the sense that our legacy and influence stay behind to encourage those we knew. Encouragement and example that, of necessity, must be passed from one generation to the next.
To those we share life with, we never really leave. We can know that for Pam, the pain and suffering is over; that she can now enjoy experiences that we cannot even imagine. And most importantly, for family and friends, there is the opportunity to one day be reunited. Until then, we live with the memories of a life well lived.
Related Post: Vapors of a Life Well Lived, as story about Tim Albus