My friendship with Lois was borne out of a working relationship. It turned into a lifelong “pick up where we left off” kind of thing that nourished me and continues to influence me even though she’s gone.
In 1985, I needed to move from working for an accounting firm, one where I had my first ‘real’ job. When my brand new hubby was going back to university in 1983, that firm offered me the chance to move across Canada and have a job waiting when I arrived.
After a couple years in Toronto, though, I wanted to make more money and definitely wanted to stop the repetition of typing boring letters and tax returns.
I got a job in HR at a real estate developer and began doing boring, repetitive tasks there.
But it didn’t matter because that’s where I met Lois.
At Halloween, I delivered benefit cheques on rollerskates. We wrote farewell speeches in prose and I was performing them like Ginger from Gilligan’s Island (google her, my young friends). When I heard from my family, I would regale her with tales of what my nephew Steven had said on the phone, and she would share the funny anecdotes of her family get togethers.
We laughed. And at times, we cried. She more than once told me, “you know men aren’t mind readers, right?”
I was so lucky because she set the standard for work friendships early in my life and that bar was very high.
After leaving that job, because well, boring is boring, I stayed friends with Lois who also left for bigger and better things. We visited her and her wonderful hubby, Jack, wherever they were living on the West Coast: first southern California and then to Vancouver Island.
We wrote and called and later on moved to email. Not often. But enough.
At the start of 2014, neither of us knew it would be her last year. She wrote hopeful letters about meeting us in Vancouver on a visit.
And then, in late summer and early fall, she realized where she was headed and what her future meant: palliative care and the end of her life.
Sadly, she knew that not everyone was there with her.
I am pretty much ready to go whenever my time comes but I don’t think Jack is there yet. I’ll have to work on that with him. It is hard to watch him watch me deteriorate.
Shortly before she passed away, after receiving a piece of art I thought she’d like, Lois wrote to me:
As for your letter – I sobbed. I feel so much the same about you and over the years with getting busy with the other “important” things in life, I wasn’t sure we still had such a bond. The heart doesn’t forget and I certainly haven’t forgotten the wonderful person you are. Yes, I feel loved and I love you too. I still think of so many things that we talked about. I still tell Jack “I’m sweating, Auntie Paula” even though he has no idea anymore what I’m talking about. I still think of you and I writing limericks or something like that for “Ginger” and killing ourselves laughing.
A few days later, Lois sent me an early birthday gift, an incredible necklace from one of her many trips. I thanked her and her response, her final email to me, was typical Lois.
I knew you (and Ginger) would appreciate the gift. I am really grateful for your friendship and I know you are keeping me close to your heart – I can feel it!
You may have already received a response to this email but I am getting a few problems (probably user induced) so I can’t always tell if I have responded or not.
Love and hugs,
Sadly, two weeks later, I received an email from a very heartbroken Jack.
Just to let you know that Lois passed away peacefully on Oct 28 at 10:30 pm She had been in Victoria Hospice for 5 days and kept her sense of humour until the very end. I will miss her terribly. I was a very lucky man to have her for my wife as she was such a wonderful lady.
That she was. A very wonderful lady.
Lois loved Celine Dion’s Because you loved me; I can see why.
You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me
I learned so much from Lois, in her life, and with her death.
Hold people close. Love them hard. And tell them how they have changed your life.
And do all those things often.
Miss you. Love you. Thank you.