Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Losing Lloyd and Loretta

Well, so much for 2013 starting off on a better note. I have lost two people I cared about in the last week and a half. My Uncle Lloyd died nine days ago, and a dear coworker and friend, Loretta Davis, died yesterday after a brief and horrible fight with cancer.

My mom with her sister Janet and brother Lloyd
Lloyd

My Uncle Lloyd was nearly 90 years old, 17 years older than my mom (who was the ultimate bonus baby!). He was an artist, husband, and father, and sadly all of his nuclear family (wife Audrey and sons David and John) died before him. His only living descendant is his grandson, Matthew, who lives on the east coast. When I was growing up, I didn't see much of my Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Audrey even though they lived closer to us than many of my other Oregon relatives. I remember my Aunt Audrey as being a smoker, independent, feisty, funny, and opinionated. She used to do most of the talking when they were together. In my memory, he was the strong, silent type. I also remember selling Girl Scout Cookies when I was younger...and he had painted the picture on the box. That made me feel so proud! Several years ago, we saw Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Audrey in Fred Meyer in Burlingame (near their house). They popped up behind us and Audrey made a sarcastic comment...I can't really remember the details, but it was a strange encounter after not seeing them for so long.

When Lloyd's younger son, John, got sick a few years ago, my parents became involved in helping both John and Lloyd. John, like his parents, was also reclusive. Sadly, he soon died and so began the process of my parents rebuilding their relationship with Uncle Lloyd. It's a beautiful lesson of sibling love. So many siblings who fall out of contact never really re-establish that contact. My mom became closer to my uncle during his last few years on earth than she ever had been before. Both of my parents have dedicated much of their recent time to caring for their brothers--both my Uncle Lloyd and my Uncle John, who is suffering from Alzheimer's (married to my Aunt Barbara, who died of melanoma last year). When we visited my uncle, I was so touched to see how much he adored and appreciated my mom. This is what my mom wrote about Lloyd the other day on Facebook:
For those of you who don't know, I lost my 89 year old brother, Lloyd, on Monday, after he had two very bad infections and other medical complications. The good part is that we were able to take him home from the hospital and he had some very good days at home. He was a kind, thoughtful, curious, creative man who taught me many lessons about life.
Like my parents, in recent years I saw more of my Uncle Lloyd than I ever did in my younger years. One of my fondest memories is of visiting him last January with Kieran, and getting a walk-through art show in his home. He was ready to die, I think, and I too am glad that he was able to die at home, knowing that he was loved and cared for. Instead of a service (which he did not want), my parents will honor him with an art show in his home.


One of the few photos I have with my Uncle Lloyd,
taken on Halloween 2011 (he loved Halloween!)--
we took the kids over to his house to trick or treat
Loretta

Sadly, I don't have any photos of the two of us together--
but I found some nice photos on her Facebook page
My friend and wonderful coworker, Loretta Davis, died yesterday after an extremely quick and horrible battle with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and the resulting homeolytic anemia, in which the body's red blood cells multiply excessively and destroy healthy blood cells. Less than two weeks ago, we received a surprising e-mail announcing that Loretta had been diagnosed with lymphoma and would be on leave starting the next day. She sent a follow-up e-mail to her close coworkers with her private e-mail address. Apparently she had been feeling unwell since December, but I was unaware. While she was going through all this worry, she had been praying for ME (because of my surgery). The last few e-mails I got from her before her diagnosis were joyous, telling me how glad she was that I was back at work and everything had gone okay...so as you can imagine, I was shocked to learn she had cancer. The next day, she was in the ICU and in crisis.

On a camel in the United Arab Emirates
(where she was working)

Although we've both worked at the same company for many years, I only began working closely with her a few years ago when my career transitioned out of staff management and I began focusing more on communications, marketing, and writing. At the time Loretta worked in our corporate marketing & communications group in Denver. We both saw each other through major career transitions. For a time, she thought she was going to lose her job and I know she lost some sleep over that while trying to be her upbeat, optimistic self. Fortunately she found a new niche in our Environmental Services group, where she was greatly valued and appreciated. She loved her job and her coworkers, and she also loved her vacations!

Loretta was a HUGE cheerleader for me (as I tried to be for her), and as I moved from managing full-time to needing to look for work to keep myself busy, she began sending great writing and communication opportunities my way. Together with another dear friend and coworker, Judy, we started a Communications Community of Practice...trying to connect various people doing communications work throughout different organizations in our firm. Loretta was a wonderful networker, always trying to help other people. As one coworker wrote on her Caring Bridge site, she was his #1 go-to person. She always knew who to go to in order to get things done, and she never turned people away. She was one of my very favorite coworkers--never failing to be encouraging, kind, honest, and upbeat, even when she was under stress. 

Her brother and close coworker and friend, Leslie, kept us updated through her CaringBridge website. Most of the last couple of weeks, Loretta was in the ICU as the doctors battled to stabilize her red blood cell count. She received over 10 pints of blood, and she wasn't getting enough oxygen to her brain or heart because of the anemia. I sent Loretta daily quotations to inspire her, and on Saturday she responded (to my great delight!). I will treasure this e-mail forever--my last contact with her:
Marie - you are my light. I love getting your messages and I just got caught up with the week (love Sheryl Crow!). This is an exhaustive journey, so big I could never imagined that I would be going through it. Every day includes doubt, fear, lots of tears and it takes so much energy to do just the slightest little task (like this). I am so humbled by the messages on CB and this account. I can never thank you enough for your unwavering support. Love from the bed at Sky Ridge Oncology. :)

With her close friend/coworker Lesli

I never, for one second, imagined that Loretta would not survive this illness. I know so many people who have survived this disease...generally, it's curable. We rejoiced when we found out it had not spread to her bones and was still in Stage II. She was full of optimism and hope--that's how she lived her life--and I was sure I'd see her the next time I went to Denver and we would celebrate her survival. I was terribly shocked and devastated to learn of her sudden death. The world has lost a true gem of a person. I don't usually tell my coworkers I love them, but I did tell Loretta after she got ill.

Last night when I went to sleep I knew I would wake up and grieve once again, wishing it had just been a dream that she had died. In fact, I dreamt about Loretta...it was as if her spirit had already left her and it was just her body. I embraced her and told her how much I would miss her. This gave me a small bit of reassurance that I was able to say goodbye to her in my dreams.
 
She loved Miss Piggy, because her sister designed Miss Piggy's costumes. Sadly, both of her sisters also died young from complications caused by diabetes. We spoke a few times about the genetic disposition for diabetes we shared. I'm glad she can be reuited with her sisters but she died way too soon, and left behind so many people who loved her and miss her so much. So here's to our unique and wonderful Loretta from Miss Piggy:

"All my scenes are my own. A double? Impossible! I am unique."


Her life and way-too-sudden death is a reminder of how we must cherish every day and tell our loved ones how much we appreciate them. Being kind is the most important thing...that's what I learned from Loretta.

16 comments:

  1. Marie, what an amazing tribute to your uncle, your family, and Loretta. Your heart--and your writing--are two of your unique gifts to the world. I cherish our friendship.

    Hugs,Judy

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    1. Oh Judy, thank you--I cherish your friendship too!

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  2. Oh Marie...you've said so much of what is in my heart that I cannot put into words. Thank you for your gift of writing. Sending you lots of hugs. Robin

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    1. Thank you, Robin. I'm so glad we can grieve with each other, as we all appreciated and loved her!

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  3. That was beautiful, Marie. Thank you for sending it my way. Loretta lives on in all of our hearts.

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    1. Thanks, Kasey. I'm so glad you got to work with her before she died.

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  4. A beautiful tribute to two beautiful people. What a wonderful writer you are!

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  5. Marie, thank you for sharing these memories. Truly, we need to cherish each day with those we love with deep aloha.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Margo. Yes, I agree.

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    2. Thank you for your comment, Margo. Yes, I agree!

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  6. Lovely tributes and so sad about Loretta. I take dreaming of someone after their death as a sign of their spirit or soul visiting you. Who knows, but I've had a few graphic examples in my life. In fact, dreamt about my friend Mary after her passing on 1/23. Way too young also, only 48. hugs

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    1. Thank you, Jill. I like to think of my dream that way too. I'm sorry about the loss of your friend. It's so much harder when people die so young.

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  7. Hi Marie,
    You don't know me, but I am a friend of Loretta's from the Women's College. I just heard about this today and am so glad that I saw the link to your blog on her FB page and got to read this. I didn't see her often but every time I did we picked right up from the last time we talked. I will so miss her warm and loving spirit. Thanks for sharing your story and photos. Dianne Calhoun

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    1. Dianne, thank you so much for your comments. I'm sorry for your loss of Loretta, too. She was such a special person to so many of us!

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  8. I am so sorry for your losses. Your words honored both of them beautifully. Ellen

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