“But I thought she was getting better?” I asked.
Kay responded, “Yeah, the doctor said her cancer has gone into remission.”
“That was three days ago, so why is she back in the hospital now?”
“Some sort of infection.”
That’s pretty much how the conversation went before this morning, when my friend Cheryl Darnell passed away. So, here I sit at my computer, in shock-mode – trying like hell to comprehend what jus’ happened.
Perhaps my shock is an after-effect of sitting by Cheryl’s side for nearly seven-hour after her passing, because I didn’t want her body to be left alone. I did this because her daughter, en route from Alaska missed a connecting flight at Sea-Tac, so she was not able to be at the hospital when her mother took her final breath.
It seems so unfair that less than a month after retiring from the airline industry, she would suddenly become sick with cancer. Cheryl had so much life left in her and had so many plans, including moving to Alaska to be near her daughter and grand-girls as well as to travel around the world.
She was a funny woman, in both her sense of humor and her personality. On one hand, she hated to see any animal suffer but she also wanted to “hurt the shit out” of those people who harmed them.
And her love of animal’s wasn’t only lip-service. For nearly thirty-years Cheryl helped rescue, rehabilitate and re-home hundreds of Nevada desert tortoises and turtles.
As for humor, her favorite phrase was “asshole.” I never met a person who could find so many uses for that single word – and it wasn’t always used in a derogatory manner, because she did jokingly call me that from time to time.
Call me a cad if you wish, but when I visited her in the hospital (she’d already slipped into a coma by then,) I whispered in her ear, “Don’t be an asshole by kicking-the-bucket. Besides you and I have a deal to complete and I don’t want you dying simply to get out of selling me that pistol.”
I added, “I love you, Cheryl.”
Thankfully, her friend Bobby was there when she left us, so she was not alone when she died. Bobby’s also the one who called Kay, who told me. Once Kay and I got to the hospital, Kay remained with Bobby, and I took over, sitting with Cheryl’s body.
A ‘shit-kicking cowgirl at heart,’ all I can do now is imagine Cheryl in Heaven, riding her favorite horse ‘Golden Boy,’ with her husband, Jim by her side. The thought brings a smile to my face, preventing me from crying anymore than I already have today.
And as I said the last time I saw her, “I love you, Cheryl.”