My friend Wendy Pierce lost her battle with cancer on Wednesday. It started in her breasts, but by the end it was in her lymph nodes, lungs, heart and brain. It’s just too much.
We were at Kajun’s Pub when Wendy told me she had 9-12 months to live, and that she wanted to take a cross country road trip. Krys and I were there, and she invited us to come along with her. She said we could do some fundraising and get in her car and go. There were things she wanted to see, things she wanted to experience. She thought that what you knew, is what you took with you, so she wanted to learn as much as possible, and see as much as she could before she died.
We did some fundraising, and ended up raising over $5,000 and a car, thanks to some really lovely, and compassionate people. But the trip was never to be. Not in the way Wendy wanted it to be, and certainly not in the way I thought it would be.
Before I went on the trip, or committed to it, I was asking myself questions like “why do I want to go on this trip?” and trying to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons and that I was prepared as possible for it.
We did go on a trip, we drove from New Orleans to Florida, stopping every so often to eat some food or take in the beach views. The purpose of the trip became Wendy getting to see her son, Frankie, and her telling him the news. She no longer had nine to twelve months to live, she had three weeks. The cancer had spread to the blood vessels surrounding her heart and were cutting off blood supply. Her doctor expected she would die from cardiac arrest, and wanted her to start taking morphine tablets to lessen the pain when it eventually happened.
She was scared, and we would talk about it. We would talk about what we thought lie beyond the boundary of death. Wendy would joke about haunting her friends, and starting up a bar in the afterlife, getting it ready for us, when it was our time.
It’s so hard to write this, I can feel the tears pressing against my eyes. Sometimes I think I will be fine, and then suddenly seemingly out of nowhere a flicker of a memory will cause my heart to clench and I feel the loss all over again.
Wednesday night, many of us who knew Wendy gathered at Kajun’s. There was a seat at the bar saved for her, an altar of sorts and everyone could buy her a shot if they wanted to.
I think by the end there was probably about 20 shots. It was a lovely thing to see, in a way, the outpouring of love for her, the comradery that losing someone can bring. We all came together to remember our friend, to celebrate her life, and to mourn her death.
The day Wendy died, it was Krys’ birthday, we were out having drinks at Grand Pre’s when we got the call from Lorie. I knew it was going to happen that day, just felt it coming closer and closer. The day before, I had woken up in a panic feeling the imminence of her passing. You see, Wendy and I hadn’t spoken since the trip.
After we left Orlando, the plan was to go down to the southernmost point in Key West, but Mike (an old friend and ex-boyfriend of Wendy’s, as I understand, the love of her life) had just come down and now he was doing the driving. I thought I would give them some time alone together and rent a car myself and go off to see a friend in Marco Island.
It ended up that I could not rent a car, and so I asked if they would drop me off at my brother’s house in Pompano Beach, and they could just pick me back up on the way. They never picked me back up. I didn’t hear from them for two days, and they were two hours drive north of me telling me I needed to find my way up there because they were going to leave. I couldn’t find my way up there, and so they left. I was hurt, but I found a rideshare back to New Orleans, and was no worse for the wear.
The anger, the selfishness, the fear, the inability to see beyond her own death. These were the things I experienced with Wendy on the road trip, the things I wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t know how to be, or what to do.
In the beginning, when I was alone with her there was the constant fear of me finding her dead in her room, and I was trying to prepare myself for what I needed to do. Call the doctor, call her sister, the location of her DNR papers and her will. Sometimes she would become so negative and angry, I didn’t know what to do. Friends advised me to just be there for her, to just listen and support her in that way. It was what I was already doing. It was all I could do, apparently. I couldn’t make things better, I couldn’t take away her pain or her fear, or her anger.
Once Mike showed up, I felt more useless and invisible than ever. I had to remove myself from the situation to try to relieve the strain I was feeling, and perhaps causing. I was worried after they left me, that Wendy thought I was only using her as some kind of a vacation. A very fucking morbid vacation, I have to say. These are things I have to let go of, thoughts that won’t serve me in any way.
The last time I saw Wendy, she dropped me off at my brother’s house in South Florida. The last text message she sent me was “Phone die laat night. N charger wasnt jllg” I posted “I love you” on her facebook page at 1:43pm Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 about four hours before she died.
I hope that I can be strong like Wendy was, a bad-ass woman with a great sense of humour. I’m glad she’s not suffering any longer, and I hope she knows I love her.
I don’t believe you only take with you what you learned in your life, I prefer to think that your knowledge is boundless in the beyond. And now that Wendy has gone, she has the wisdom and knowledge of all the Universe.