In everyone's life there come special people who help you at pivotal times to change your life. I was fortunate to have Nancy Schurhammer as one of those friends. Nancy loved life and laughter and was one of the wackiest friends I've ever had...and I've had several.
I learned some of my greater life lessons from her. While at training in Madison for a new position at Social Security, she took me to a dirty book store and an X-rated movie. Quite an eye opener for this small town girl. Even though she was younger than me, she was the big sister I never had.
While working with her I would use her relentlessly to tell her how unhappy I was and how horrible my marriage was. She listened patiently for a long time and then helped me in the best way possible.
She very calmly sat me down and told me she would back me in whatever decision I made, stay and work on the marriage or leave and start over...but...and this was the big "but" - unless I actually DID something about the situation I was to shut up and quit bitching about it. She did not want to hear it any more. At first I was shocked and appalled at her callousness and it wasn't until later that I saw the quiet wisdom in her action. Within 30 days I asked for a divorce. My son told me later that it was one of "the happiest days of his life" to know there would be a change.
Had I not had that encounter I would probably still be in an abusive relationship and miserable and whining to everyone who would listen how awful my life was. I never would have been able to be free to marry Left Brain...and that would have been tragic. Maybe better for him...but not me.
She would drive the hour from her house to mine to visit and have lunch. When I marveled at this, she asked "aren't you worth it?". In this small way she helped me rebuild a battered self esteem.
Nancy battled for a long time with breast cancer. She was a young girl when her mother died from this same illness. Her father died within a year of her mother and she was raised by her older brother and his wife. Her brother died at age 51. Her goal was to reach 54 because nobody else in her family had ever achieved more than 53 years of age. She met that goal.
All through the cancer she never complained about her ordeal. She always preferred to find the humor in every situation. When visiting her in the nursing home before her death she asked if I knew how to remove the passive restraint from her wheelchair. I lied and said "no" and she looked at me silently, then grinned and said "shit". I learned later from her son that she did make a break for it once...she might not be able to get out of the wheelchair, but she could push the buttons on the elevator and get to the street. She was heading home when they found her. Such spirit...right to the end.
Before the funeral I visited a garden center in Rochester and found a lovely pagoda dogwood that will be planted in my meditation garden in her memory. I also came across a clearance sale and purchased forty hostas, completely filling the car with plants, but that's another story for another time.
I will miss the birthday card she normally sent to me this year. And I won't be able to return it to her. For years we would exchange the same card, crossing out the name and resigning it, only the envelopes were refreshed for the postal carriers consideration. We figured it saved on buying cards and was one of many a fun gag.
Nancy - you were one of a kind and I'll never know another just like you. I'll miss you.
Long Live the Queen