Early on in Stephanie's illness, I used to joke that when you know your pharmacist on a first name basis, and they know every medication you're taking and why, it's not an ideal situation. That, however, was true for Stephanie and me. It seemed that almost every week I would be at the pharmacy getting a prescription filled. The list of medications that Steph had to take was long and expensive.
A woman who worked at the pharmacy became a friend of mine. Perhaps she could tell by the prescriptions I had to purchase or conversations that she had to have with doctors, that Stephanie had a lot of complicated medical problems. Whenever Brenda was working and saw me she would greet me with a big smile, a hello and a question: "How's our girl doing?" We would talk, and she would usually assure me that she was praying for Stephanie. She was indeed a bright spot in a very dark journey.
After Stephanie passed away, I thought about Brenda from time to time whenever I was in the grocery where the pharmacy is located, but I didn't see her. Occasionally I would peak over at the pharmacy to see if she was there, but I wouldn't see her. Then one morning when I was in the store to pick up a few things, Brenda walked in. "How are you doing stranger?", she asked with a big smile. I realized that she didn't know, so I told her that Stephanie passed away last summer, and she gave me a big hug and reminded me that Stephanie was better now. I told her that I knew that. It was a sweet encounter, but it also was hard. It was like a scab being pulled off a wound. I took my groceries to the car and was weeping as I loaded them and drove away.
In the days and weeks following Stephanie's death, there was an intensity with almost every encounter I had with friends who were seeing me for the first time since she had died. That intensity has subsided significantly, but every now and then it raises up again. Seeing Brenda was one of those occasions. It was a brief encounter, but it affected me.
I'm glad that the pharmacist was my friend and that I got to see her because she was such a source of encouragement. But it was a mixed blessing - or was it? I think every time I cry, I am reminded of the great gift that I lost. Some people never get the blessing of living with someone who knows you as well as or better than you know yourself and vice versa. Someone who knows your weaknesses and foibles, your peccadilloes and annoying habits and loves you anyway. Someone who celebrates your successes and consoles you when you're not successful. That was true love, and I was blessed to have had that for almost thirty-five years. The intensity of the feeling of loss that I feel occasionally is a tribute to what I lost.
So I'm glad that I saw Brenda, and if she had asked: "How's our girl doing?" I would have said through tears, "She's just fine. Thank you."