A friend of mine died over the weekend. She'd been battling breast cancer for quite some time. She was in remission when we met, but the cancer came back about ten years ago. She's been fighting ever since.
Mary was an amazing woman -- interested in everything, loved the arts, loved nature. She used to travel a lot, back when she was healthier. She was always trying to do new things. I think it was that interest in everything that kept her alive so long, even when she was so horribly sick -- she wasn't done looking around yet.
I've found myself trying to be more like her in recent years. I don't think I ever told her that. No, I'm sure I haven't, because I don't think I even realized that's what I was doing until I typed it a moment ago. The cynic in me tends to roll her eyes skyward when anyone talks about someone being "inspiring," but really I guess that's what she was. The determination with which she held onto life, the way she refused to allow illness to get in the way of her enjoyment of things, the enthusiasm with which she embraced a new idea or activity -- I want to be like that. She's part of the reason I took a drawing course a few years back (just to see if I could draw), and there's a little bit of be-like-Mary in my decisions to blog, to bellydance, to get out there and do something instead of hanging back and dithering. She used to ask for dancing updates. And demand demonstrations. When I visited her in the hospital last week, I mentioned I'd enrolled in an intro to wheel-thrown pottery class that starts the end of this month. That made her perk up a bit (she was a potter, among other things). We made jokes about dancing and throwing at the same time: the wheel going one way and my hips going the other.
She became a potter after her cancer went into remission the first time, back in the 80s (I think). Long before I met her, she'd switched from making regular-sized pottery to miniatures. I have some pictures of her work on my Flick'r account.
I think that Mary wrote her own obituary. It sounds like her voice. I'm not sure how long it will stay up on the newspaper's site, so I'm saving a copy of it on my computer. If the link breaks, I'll work something else out.