My friend died last night. In a world of just horrible shitbag people, my friend Nancy was an angel among them. She was crippled by the monsters that lived in her mind, but held them back with such fierce determination that the only thing she ever let out of that same dark place was all the love and light and kindness she could muster. Nancy had the worst case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder that I’ve ever encountered. She was always apologizing for it, when all it made any of us do was want to make the world easier for her. Because Nancy loved with her whole heart, the people she allowed in her life loved her that much fiercely back, although her disease would never allow her to accept that love. Nancy isolated herself, fearing that she was the worst contamination than any of the things she scrubbed and washed over and over again to remove. The word filth, not only described the tic in her mind that she could not escape, but became how she saw herself.
But, as everyone who loved her can tell you, she was anything but. Nancy once talked her way out of a home invasion by simply telling the would-be burglar in her calm, sweet voice, that “he didn’t live here and couldn’t come in.” She was successful, and after some time, the guy simply gave up and left. Maybe he felt her gentle, but firm spirit, pushing back against him, simply refusing to move, realizing that to harm her would be more monstrous than he had previously imagined. She would buy birdseed for the birds near her apartment, concerned for every lovely tiny creature, before her own well-being. She cleared a vacant lot of brush nearby, covering herself in poison ivy in the process, because to sacrifice her own body to make the world a more beautiful place was simply in her nature. She never gave it a second thought.
Nancy was a huge, unabashed fan of Mr. Rogers. To her mind, there was no kinder or gentler spirit that she could encounter. The same soft spoken manner in which he conducted himself was reflected in the way she interacted with the people around her. She hated bigotry, cruelty and harshness, even getting upset when I shouted at my cat to get off the table, since the kitty was just doing what was in her nature to do. I recall her pulling the animal down, gently, giving it a frank but gentle talking to about boundaries and listening to “mommy.”
I lost touch with her when I moved away, not because I wanted to, but because she didn’t have a phone, nor would she consider using her work email for anything other than business. I always thought that I could find a day to drive up and see her, just pop in on my old job, and see how she was doing. But now I know that I can’t. In the end, her death came quickly. In her last hours, she had no voice. As the people who have mistreated her in the past would have liked it, she had no voice. But those that love her are her voice. We are the voice of those who love others so much, they have no room left to love themselves. And though I couldn’t be there with her, I understand she was surrounded by friends.
I miss my friend. She changed my life in ways she couldn’t possibly imagine. Nancy showed me the depth of her pain as well, and in that moment, I understood both her and myself. For each of us has a glimmer of that same sadness, that same self-loathing, and all of us have that same capacity for unbridled kindness toward our fellow man and creatures of the earth. The world is a little grayer having lost her.