“I don’t want to live anymore,” she wrote in an email to me.

She said, “Our stories are very similar, but I’m a couple of decades older than you, my husband is gone, my children are estranged, and I have Stage 4 cancer. I can’t think of a single reason to stay, and I’d rather be finished.”

We’ve never met in the face-to-face sense, but I’ve been having coffee with her for years. Each day, I rattle off something on my mind, take it all out on my keyboard, and she signs on the next morning to see what’s new.

Oh, virtual world, how small you are.

I picked up the phone and called her that day, long ago. I wasn’t sure how serious she was about wishing for her life to end, I didn’t know if she was a threat to herself, and a phone call was something I could do. A small something.

I said, “Maryellen, I believe I understand how you feel, and I won’t try to talk you out of taking your life. Just not today, okay? Just don’t do it today.”

I gave her the secret to my own livelihood during my endless winter.

When I was tempted to do something damaging, I reminded myself, “Just not today.”

When I wanted to do something brave, I reminded myself, “Just do the next thing.”

Time and disease have taken their toll and run their course, and Maryellen has lived each day with doses of ‘just do the next thing’ and ‘just not today.’

She wrote to me again this week. She said,

“I have been placed in hospice care, and my days are short. I have loved you letting me in, and I have loved reading every post. Thank you for helping me in the dark places. I cannot wait to meet Robb and tell him how great you are. You have eased my way. I love you, my sweet friend.”

I feel like I am standing at an airport terminal, sending her to a place I can’t wait to see. Like I’ve tucked a love note in her pocket.

a hand holding an origami paper heart up to the sun during sunse

See you someday, Maryellen. 

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