Most of my friends are ex-pats. Several reasons: (1) shared experiences (and all ex-pats know this feeling that when you start to explain anything to a non-ex-pat, their eyes glaze over because they can’t comprehend the lifestyle) (2) I don’t make friends easily because I’m fairly shy but being an ex-pat in a small community situation (like when we lived in row houses in Okpo, Korea) means you have to get to know the people in the same community and (3) I find it much easier to keep in touch with people via email, facebook, letters, holiday cards, etc. I consider some of my ex-pat friends to be my best friends because of the experiences we have shared and the hardships/fun/trials and tribulations on moving, living in a country that doesn’t speak English, trying to find “proper” food, etc. And often I don’t see these friends for years at a time because our husbands move onto different projects and our paths don’t cross. But I miss them and keep in touch, sometimes sporadically, but if our husbands come back together on a project, we pick up our friendships exactly where we left it. CS was such a person, a wonderful friend but we haven’t seen each other in years as our husbands have been on different projects.
Last week I saw on facebook that my friend was having a birthday so I sent a birthday greeting. I got a message back from her husband that she was in the hospital and dying of breast cancer. OMG. I had no clue. She is someone I consider one of my best ex-pat friends. This was sad news indeed. Then yesterday I got on the computer to see another message from “her”. Her husband wrote that she had died the previous night and the funeral was Friday. I had to cry and I am still tearing up that my friend had kept her illness pretty much a secret from a lot of us ex-pat friends and that I never had a chance to say goodbye and tell her how much I valued her friendship and enjoyed her company.
My friend was delightful. She had a wickedly droll sense of humor. Often on a comment of hers I would pause and think “she did NOT just say that” before dissolving into laughter over the comedy of it and the situation of it. We shared an unusual life in Korea in a small town for awhile and then her husband moved on to a rotational existence and she settled down in the Pacific Northwest. Part of our time together was in Houston also. They had a weird dog and let me walk it on occasion which was difficult because everyone wanted to come see what kind of dog it was but the dog was adamant about getting into fights with any other male dog. So I’d cross the street continually to avoid other dogs. What I didn’t realize even then was my friend was probably struggling with cancer and it was probably a relief to have someone take care of the dog. But that’s conjecture on my part. It was nice for me because I didn’t want a full time dog responsibility but walking their dog was good.
She had wonderful stories as well. Her heritage was Japanese and some of her stories of her grandmother trying to survive the war were bitter sweet comedies of errors and bad luck at the beginning and good luck at the end. Her other stories were equally cool as she could deliver a story dead serious only to have you falling down in laughter later. She was very patient as an ex-pat wife has to be when her husband is only home every other month to fix things around the house and yet she was also good at getting it done herself when needed.
I should have realized that her Facebook comments were getting scattered and few and far between but time passes rather quickly for me and I just hadn’t a clue. Her husband told me that she had been diagnosed 18 years ago with breast cancer so the entire time I knew her, she never said a word. I wish she had let me help her, in any way I could have. But she was always fun to be with and upbeat and the only time I heard her complain was when she was tired of having a part time husband, which we all complain about when our husbands are on rotation. She never complained about her health although I think that briefly she might have mentioned it in passing when she was better. So briefly that I’m not sure if she did or not. So I salute my friend and her steadfastness and determination to beat this thing and am very, very sorry that she has finally lost the battle. Since I cannot make the funeral, I will honor her in my own way by posting this for our mutual friends to see, they will know who CS is. And I will make a donation to some good breast cancer fund in her name. And I will even wear pink ribbons when the time is right for breast cancer campaigns. Good luck and keep well to her husband and daughter and her family members left behind. Goodbye CS. Bless you and keep you. I love you and miss you.