Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cancer, Friendship and a Legacy

Most actors can relate to the saying, "Book a vacation, book a job." I recently stayed behind on my family vacation in order to shoot a national commercial. It's a great opportunity and my husband and I agreed it was worth me missing the first few days of our trip and catching up with them down the line.

I have been away from my kids only one other time when I flew to NY on a three day restorative visit with friends. That trip seemed to be based in survival. I am fortunate that I get to spend a good deal of time with my girls because my schedule is flexible. Sometimes that time can become a bit consuming and a break is needed in order for me to restore some sanity and autonomy.

There was something about the girls leaving me that left me feeling quite raw and vulnerable. The idea that they would be off in unfamiliar territory without me to guide and protect them caused me great discomfort. Although my husband and their older siblings (my step kids Thomas and Nora) are perfectly capable of caring for them I felt helpless.

The night before they left as I finished packing their bags I got a dizzying view into what my friend Carrie must have felt ten fold before she passed away recently. Carrie is a woman I had the pleasure of knowing all too briefly. Her daughter Francesca played my daughter in a play. I got to know Carrie as she shared her daughter, her strong spirit and her diagnosis of stage four cancer.

You'd never know Carrie was sick. She always looked great, had the most positive attitude I've ever encountered and the sheer energy and joy in Francesca was testimony to what a wonderful woman she was.

Six months after I met Carrie she was gone. We'd kept in touch after the play closed. Francesca and my girls had play dates. Carrie and I e-mailed and even weeks before she died, she was curious about my life and determined that we meet for coffee so she could learn more.

In a status update on Carrie's page after she passed a friend listed some of Carrie's last requests. In lieu of flowers she asked that we offer gift cards to local restaurants and services. She specified which restaurants; the kids favorites. She requested certificates to Peapod and a pre-made meals company. She thought about feeding her family even after she was gone.

She asked that donations be made anonymously so that her dear husband Stefano wasn't overwhelmed with having to write thank you cards. Stefano is the just the kind of man who would spent his time writing one to every single person.

As I packed and worried about the couple of days I'd be away from the girls my heart ached for Carrie.  It pained me to think how she felt knowing she was going to have to leave her children as they continued their lives in unfamiliar territory without her their to guide and protect. How brave she was to look the reality in the eye and plan for them.

The same thought led me to think about mothers and fathers in the military who face the unknown in relation to their families on a regular basis.

I am grateful to have known Carrie and I am grateful to those parents in the military.

I am awe struck by their bravery.

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