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I first met Rhonda almost two decades ago, a friend of my best friend from way back. She lived in Mississippi at the time and I was included in an all-girl weekend getaway to meet her and another of their “pack”. I learned years later that they were apprehensive about that weekend, letting an outsider in. Sometimes when a plural relationship works you hate to introduce an unknown into the mix. But luckily I passed muster and was allowed to be part of them.

My relationship with these women has lasted longer than any other relationship I’ve ever had. Sure, I’ve got my family. You’re stuck with your family though not by choice but by blood and you can’t really bail, even if sometimes you feel like it. I bailed on lots of men over the years. But I would no more consider leaving my friends than I’d consider leaving this world.

We were scattered so it wasn’t like we could see each other every weekend. But three or four times every year we’d meet somewhere and catch up. Often we chose touristy vacation spots…but truthfully we were just as happy to sit around somebody’s home and share what had been going on since last we visited over fruity cocktails and lots of comfort food.

Now, Rhonda is the “best” of us all. Each of us has our vices, our dark secrets, our shortcomings – but not Rhonda. She’s like the perfect woman. Smart and pretty and outgoing…kind and spiritual and able to do all things, womanly and manly. In the kitchen or the workshop, she can do it all and would never leave anything up to a man when she’s just as capable.

We used to talk about being Golden Girls when we got old…buying a big house together and living with our pets and our foibles until we died. But in time Rhonda met Sean and though they never married it was obvious Sean would likely keep Rhonda from being a Golden Girl. But it was still a happy dream.

In every life are snapshots that happen unexpectedly and change the rest of one’s album forever. Rhonda’s snapshot was cancer.

How a woman who has no vices, no bad habits, and treats her body in the way we’re always told that if we do we’ll live a long healthy life, gets smacked down with ovarian cancer is something I still can’t wrap my mind around, even after two years. It should have happened to somebody else, not her. I guess everybody always says that.

If only, if only, if only. If only she and Sean hadn’t had their five-year plan that took them to Tennessee, so far away. If only she’d found out earlier about that evil mass that she’d been harboring for who knows how long. If only we hadn’t been tricked into thinking she’d be okay after the first round of chemo and surgery. If only it had happened to somebody else, somebody who isn’t as good as Rhonda.

What makes someone who has no future want to keep living? If one is in pain, and is constantly nauseous, and who hasn’t been able to taste or swallow a morsel of food in a year, how do they find life in the emptiness? When your doctor tells you – finally – that there is nothing more they can do, how do you find the will to fight? If you say and truly believe that you are not afraid to die, then why do you choose to live something that is no longer your life? I don’t have those answers, but Rhonda does.

And the days go on and on and life for her is nothing more than waiting for it to be over.

These are the times when kind helpful folks tell us we’ll always have our memories. And for sure it’s true. But I should have more of Rhonda, more good years not ruined by the last two. More decades of fruity cocktails and life stories shared, more love. And Rhonda should have more good life.

We just never know, do we?

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When Life Gives You Lemons
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