This morning, my friend, Joy Little, matriarch of the Comedy Works in Philadelphia, lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. Since I am in Phoenix visiting my father, I won't be able to attend her funeral on Friday. Joy would be the first person to tell me to stay with my dad.
Joy was not my best friend. We didn't spend holidays at each other's homes or vacation together as a family or even meet regularly for dinner. But we were the kind of friends who could tell each other anything and often did.
If another person asked me, "How are you?" I would simply say, "I'm fine." But if Joy asked me the same question, I would tell her the truth. I couldn't help myself.
Even if I hadn't seen her in six months, the flood gates would open as soon as she inquired about my life. Words would start leaping from my body as if they were excited to see her.
If Joy were in law enforcement and I were a criminal, I would have confessed even before she had the chance to read me my rights. I was always grateful she used her power over me for good and not evil.
I often wondered why Joy had this affect on me. I used to think it was because she didn't have a mean bone, cell or molecule in her body. I knew in my heart that anything said between us would always remain that way.
But, in the weeks since she became ill, I've finally realized that Joy Little reminds me of my mother. And, just like my mother, she's leaving us much too soon.
When I saw Joy in the hospital, she allowed me to tuck her in. As I sat by her bed and held her hand, she closed her eyes and said, "I wish this would go away." I said, "I wish it would go away too." I didn't know what else to say.
For the first time in Joy's presence, I was speechless. Yes, I realized, with that one sentence, I was speaking the complete truth.
I kissed her forehead knowing it might be the last time I would ever see her. As I said goodbye, I think I was also saying goodbye, once again, to my own mother.
I don't believe in angels, but I do hope that somewhere in the universe, good spirits live on. But, I guess, in a way, they do. Good people continue to live on through those of us they left behind.
Whenever I've done a good deed for an animal or a child or a stranger, I would think of my mom. Now I'll think of Joy as well.