Our lives intersected in August of 1980. I had moved to San Antonio to go to graduate school while my husband was in pilot training in Del Rio, Texas. I knew one person when I arrived in town. That one contact took me in for a few weeks and then hooked me up with a former girlfriend who needed someone to share the rent.
We were both photography students but we were in different programs and both worked as servers in different restaurants, so we rarely saw each other. For months we caught glimpses into each other’s lives through the music left on the stereo, the food left in the fridge, and the occasional late night crossing as we came home from work.
After that brief year my husband earned his wings and I moved to California with him as he began his Air Force career so for thirty+ years she and I had contact only through Christmas cards, the rare call, one evening out when I happened to pass through town, a lunch three years ago, and through my handcrafted valentines sent to her family, the first of which was created at her dining room table in that apartment we shared.
I knew she lived in the same world I inhabited and that was enough.
A few months ago I found out she was fighting inoperable brain cancer so this past week I drove to see her.
She hadn’t openly shared her story on social media but in a strange twist of “six degrees of separation” someone who used to work for my husband ended up taking photography classes from my former roommate’s husband and the connection was made. She commented, when I was with her, that her husband had recently posted a picture of her without her wig on Facebook, surmising that she supposed the world at large was beginning to figure it out.
Selfishly, I needed to see her. I needed to look her in the eye and witness her smile in person. I needed to exist in the same space with her for a few days and she was kind enough to accommodate me.
When I returned home this was the message at mass on Sunday:
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matt 25:13)
I saw her just a few days after the mass shooting at a church in Texas so during my drive to San Antonio my thoughts were very much concentrated on the souls who had walked into that place of worship not knowing they wouldn’t walk out. I was also very aware that during the time span of those few days we were together, many people would have taken their last breath for many different reasons.
The point being, we certainly don’t know the day or the hour. Our time here is, at best, temporary.
What we do with that time is important.
I, for one, will try to keep my oil lamp filled.