A friend of mine recently passed. We weren’t that close, although I would call us friends. We have some mutual friends that are very and near to us both. It was through them that I knew he had fallen ill, quite quickly and while he diagnosed with a couple of months to live, he lasted just about two weeks. His friends gathered around him in his final days, celebrating his life and the joy that he had brought to everyone who knew him.
I can’t stop thinking about him and all those whose lives he touched. I’ve been thinking about the fact that while you can’t pick your family, you certainly can pick your friends, and hopefully they will help fill in those gaps that your family may have left unfulfilled. Sid was certainly that person to many people. I have lost one of those people in my life too, two years ago. Her name was Margaret Lauzon.
Margaret and I met through the studio. She was a true music lover if there every was one. She played the hammer dulcimer. She was also a filmmaker, documentarian, rabblerouser, stoner, and a whole lot more. She was a lot of things to me, she was one of my best friends. If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love to laugh. I try to be funny, I like to make others laugh, and there have been just a couple of people in my life who could make me laugh as much as Margaret. She had the best sense of humour and could turn anything into a good time. You also never knew what was going to come out of her mouth when she opened it. One of the first times I hung out with her, we went to the Orange Peel together. A guy approached us after recognizing her. This is how their exchange happened.
Random Guy: “Hey, I know you, didn’t we meet at a party in Fairview?”
Margaret: “I didn’t have sex with your friend in the closet, if that’s way you mean.”
Random Guy: “Umm…..yea, okay. I’m Rob.”
Margaret: “Sorry Rob, I just had to make sure I was clear about that. I’m not a tramp. I’m Margaret.”
I just stood there bewildered with the fact she answered the question the way she did. For years after that I would walk up to her while she was talking to someone at a party and say, “Excuse me, didn’t we have sex in a closet in Fairview once?” She laughed every time.
Margaret was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I was in Jamaica when it happened. All of a sudden I was getting all of these voicemails whenever I turned my phone on. I had changed my voicemail before I left to say that I was out of the country and please don’t leave me a message unless it was an emergency. When I finally checked it I had several messages about Margaret being in the hospital. I was finally able to reach her after several attempts of calling her. She was scared, in pain, and felt helpless. As did I. I couldn’t wait to get back to North Carolina to see her.
It was a long road of chemo and radiation. Margaret’s mom was there by her side all the time. At this point she had moved to Shelby and was getting her treatments in Charlotte. I would give her mom a break and come to take Margaret for her treatments for a few days. It was here that I got to learn all about cancer and what it does to the human body and spirit. I told Margaret I was there for comic relief and did my best to make her laugh, although I have to say it was never one sided. I was never grossed out by her “poop bag” and made sure to talk about it as much as possible with her. We both were fans of toilet humour, and having a poop bag just gave us so much ammunition for dirty jokes.
At one point Margaret was declared cancer free after countless treatments and months and months of being sick. We threw her a party, even made her a pinata of a human ass so she could beat the crap out of it. She got her colostomy bag removed which was a big deal. She was always concerned that she would have that thing for the rest of her life. And I don’t blame her, what 34 year old single girl wants to explain to every guy she dates that she has a shit bag on her hip? She had a big part of her colon removed so between that and the treatments, she was having some issues. Margaret came and stayed with me for two weeks in March of 2010. Needless to say, her stay was nothing short of entertaining. During this time she rearranged my furniture several times while I was at work. While I was working she would sent me text pictures if she had a bowel movement. “These things should be celebrated, dammit!”, she would say. This was when the iphone couldn’t get picture texts and I would have to go that website, and enter the long, stupid code. I would sit there and watch the page slowly load, only to realize I was looking at a tiny turd in my very own toilet. One day I left for work and she was watching Pineapple Express, I came home 10 hours later and she still hadn’t finished it. She had been distracted a few, well, a few hundred times throughout the day and just couldn’t finish it. It was on this visit that Margaret decided to have the surgery reversed and get her bag once again. She said it just wasn’t worth the pain in the ass she had to deal with. Literally.
When she went for the surgery, the discovered a tumor in her stomach. She told me she didn’t want to spend the time she had left poisoning herself with chemo. I have to say after seeing what she went through for the colon cancer, I didn’t blame her one bit. I tried to spend as much time with her as possible. I tried to make her laugh as much as I could.
Shortly before Margaret passed my mom was diagnosed with anal cancer. I wanted to tell Margaret about my mom, but didn’t how she would feel or say about it. On top of going through the last stages of one my best friend’s life and my mother being sick, my relationship was falling apart and my professional life was a mess. I was one big ol’ sloppy mess.
I drove down to Florida to take my mom to her first chemo treatment. Margaret had been admitted to Hospice, and I have to say, I really didn’t understand that Hospice meant the end of the line. I thought she was just trying to get her “drug cocktail” just right and then she would come home. I don’t know if this was just me willing that to be the case or I was just trying to remain blissfully ignorant. We were texting everyday and her texts varied in wackiness depending on her cocktail. She was trying to figure out that right balance of being out of pain but still being coherent. I have saved all of those text messages from her and often look back at them.
I finally texted Margaret.
“I’m down in FL, my mom has anal cancer, taking her to her first chemo treatment.”
“Well soldier, this isn’t your first battle. You know what to do…”
She was right. My mom went through 7 weeks of chemo and radiation. It was miserable, but then again, what can you expect? Cancer’s a bitch. I just tried to be there as much as possible for her.
After Margaret died, I held a memorial for her, and invited everyone to tell their favorite Margaret stories. There were so many great stories and I was so happy that her brother was there to hear them.
This was the first time that I have lost someone so close to me. I know it’s supposed to get easier with time and I’m sure at some point it will. But I can tell you, I have cried the entire time writing this post, taking short breaks to swill some vodka and blow my nose. I think of her often and I have a great memorial piece in my kitchen of her thanks to Whitney Ponder. She left me all of her pottery so all of my dishes are plates from her collection of handmade pieces. It’s hard not to think of all the fun things we would of done together. We would of created so many great movies and stories together.
If I have one piece of advice to give someone who has a loved one who is sick or dying it would be this: Do not let your fear or pain of losing them get in the way of spending time with them. Do not worry about being awkward or saying the wrong thing or being emotional stop you from reaching out to them. Margaret and I talked about the people in her life who didn’t contact her after finding out she had cancer. No one expects you to be perfect in these imperfect situations and remember we are all in this world together. I know how hard it is to watch someone you love slowly or quickly physically wither, but missing out on those last precious moments with someone you love is much, much harder to deal with.
With much love and respect…
And if you want to see some of the cinematic magic we made together….