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Monday, April 24, 2006

Until Next Time

This is a post about who Nikki is to me.

In the early summer of 2005, someone "new" commented on this blog. Her name was Sarah. She was witty, and opinionated and feisty. She signed her comment with "Shalom." I "ran" to see who she was. I felt an immediate connection, a quick and intense "blove" for this woman. I looked forward to getting to know her. But I wouldn't have much time. She was soon to go into the hospital for a bone marrow transplant. She'd be away from blogging for about 100 days. I was sad about that, but talked with her as much as I could, and looked forward to deepening our friendship when those 100 days were up. When she became too ill to blog, I communicated, via comments, with her sisters and her partner, Nikki.

While on vacation, I would scramble to get to an internet connection to check on her. I remember sitting in the lobby of a Hampton Inn, reading that Sarah wasn't doing well. Jif was watching me as I read, and he said, "Is your friend in trouble?"

I would imagine this is true for those of you reading, as it is for me: it is a relief to me, a gift to me, when someone like Jif understands that someone I never met is truly my friend. Within days of that vacation check-in, I learned that my friend, Sarah, had died.

I gave my email address to Sarah's family, and on the day after she died, I heard from Nikki. Over the next many months, Nikki and I exchanged dozens of emails. I got to know her as an intelligent, sensitive, generous, loving, altruistic, funny woman. And a woman with, as she said, "a hole in my heart," created by Sarah's absence. It is hard, too hard, I think, when you are someone who is so "all heart," to continue doing what you do, when that hole is there.

Interspersed through the posts here, are comments from Nikki. Loving, supportive, funny. Even one where she threatened to "throttle" me if I didn't take good care of myself with my European troubles. I used that line to tease her about unleashing her inner BADASS, which she protested wasn't really in there. I still think it was.

There is so much more in my heart than I can get to come out of my fingertips, coherently. Bear with me, friends. I am still struggling with all that has happened.

My first emails with Nikki were me trying to offer comfort. She read some books I recommended. She was so grateful for every kindness shown. And I began to really care for her. I began to experience her as yet another of Sarah's gifts. And I became very thankful for her friendship.

When I posted about my medical problems, Nikki was immediately on the case. I was reluctant to discuss details with her at first, not wanting to take advantage of the friendship. She adamantly dismissed my concerns about that. She became animated, excited, at the opportunity to help me:

"I love being a doctor, and it's the one constant in my life that keeps me going. The reason I have not to pull the sheet up over my head somedays. It's my 'high in life.'"

And she was a good doctor, to me. She gave me good advice. I started out with a real-life doctor who was not so good, and she helped me find one that is excellent. I was in pain, and frightened, and Nikki stepped up. And I remain thankful. Especially thankful, because I understand that she was taking a risk in doing so. It is, to put it gently, unwise (if not unethical and potentially illegal) for a licensed physician to give medical advice to a stranger on a blog. And she did it anyway, and I love her for that, among other things.

I also turned to her when I learned of another blogfriend who had a friend, who needed advice. Yes, a friend of a friend, for whom I turned to help from my friend, Nikki -- and I never met any of these people. Nikki said this, at that time:
"You know I would do anything as far as getting info for people. I think in your profession, you 'mental health folks' are much more anal about privacy . . . but having said such, since I write out of an email acct. with my name on it -- you know that I trust you. Again, if these people or anyone else needs help, you know I will be happy to do what I can."

I share these stories, just to say, Nikki was willing to take risks to help people. To share her gifts with someone who needed them. It was little more than a month after Sarah's death that we learned Nikki was going to Louisiana, to help Katrina victims. Then, just weeks ago, she told us she was going to Cambodia for a year as a medical volunteer. When I wished her well, I told her that I prayed her efforts would make a difference, to those she was helping, and to her own healing journey. And she wrote,
"I, too, hope my work will make a difference, and through such my heart will heal."

In the 10 days or so since I learned of Nikki's death, I have gone through a lot of changes. It may be my spiritual discipline, or it may be my crutch, depending upon your perspective, but when I am knocked down by life events such as this, my first response is to scramble to find that for which I can be thankful. First, I was thankful that my friend, Shari, told me the news. That I heard it from her sweet, gentle voice, rather than reading it. I will always remain grateful for that. And to those of you who received an email from me, I wish I could have done better, in that regard.

The next thing for which I am so very grateful -- and I have seen this as a miracle, really -- is that Nikki said goodbye. And those who love her said their goodbyes. Because she believed she was leaving for a year, we all got to say sweet things to her. To tell her how much she meant to us. We were given the gift of having no regrets, about loving words left unspoken. This is unheard of, in the case of a sudden, accidental death. And ask anyone who has been left behind, after a loved one has left in that way; they will tell you that not having had the opportunity to say those things is one of the most distressing aspects of their loss. Those who love Nikki were spared that distress. We got to say what we needed to say. I can't overstate how thankful I am for that.

What I did not say to Nikki, was "the G word." As I told her, I don't do goodbyes. I never have; just can't, when having to take a break, or "permanently" leave a loved one. Whether it's an extended vacation or an imminent death, I say, "I'll see you next time." And I have faith that there will be that next time. Except in Nikki's and my case, the actual meeting will be the first time. And that brings me back to the whole, "Are internet friends real friends?" Was Nikki real?

These last few days, I keep returning to a quote from my graduate school days, when I studied the psychological theories of Carl Jung. In addressing the question of whether to believe the sometimes unbelievable stories of clients, he said, and I love this SO much, he said, "Whatever acts is actual." If the belief, if the perception, acts upon our lives, our hearts, our minds, it is indeed, actual.

No doubt, then. Nikki is actually my friend. As is Sarah. I am a better person, with more possibilities in my life, for having had my path cross theirs, as we journeyed through this time and place.

Sarah's sister and Nikki's dear friend and sister-in-law, Shoshie, tells me that Nikki did not specify any particular charity, to which she would want donations made in her memory. What the family did discover, though, among Nikki's will and "final papers," was this request:
"My wish for memorials is for people to perform a kind act for someone in need, or to volunteer one hour at their favorite charity."

Nikki had, apparently, taken time to consider and articulate these wishes, in the aftermath of Sarah's death, as people were asking her what they could do to help. Of course, no one knew then how quickly people would be asking the family the same thing, regarding ways to honor Nikki's memory.

Anyone who encountered Nikki would not be surprised at her wish. Indeed, before Shoshie shared this with me, I had intended to tell you all, "Take a risk and make a difference. That will honor Nikki." That is what I intend to challenge myself to do, in her memory. In thanksgiving for having had her pass through my life. I think that is what she did, in a nutshell. For some of us, the risks taken may be big, like going to a strange country and culture to share our skills. For most of us, the risks will be smaller, though no less significant, like forgiving someone; like taking a moment to reach out to someone we don't know well. That's my challenge to myself, in Nikki's memory. Take a risk, make a difference. It really doesn't take much.

One of my first emails from Nikki was written just after she returned from Sarah's funeral service. If I insert Nikki's name in place of Sarah's, it expresses my regard for Nikki as I knew her. Nikki also expressed her gratitude for my role in her life at that point, and now I would say the same back to her. Nikki said,
"Sarah was the best of everything in a human. Smart, kind, witty, generous, loving. I am lost and still feel as if I am in a dream. Thank you again, for everything you did for us."

Until next time, Nikki.

***

And now, my dear friends who visit here. I need to say to you, too, "Until next time." Events of the last couple of weeks have affected me very deeply. You know that I have struggled with health problems for the last few months. I'm sorry (and pissed, and depressed, and confused) to say, there are more. I do not believe they are serious, but they are disruptive to my daily life, and they require more focused attention from me, in order to be properly diagnosed and treated. So, I need to take a break. I am thinking . . . weeks. Although I don't know for sure. My hope is to keep doing the Sunday Post, or maybe even ask some gracious blogfriend to cover that for me, once or twice. I am not ready to "pull the plug" here. And I hope it doesn't come to that. But I am being sent pretty clear messages, by my health, my life, and yes, my God, that I need to take a break from "What Was I Thinking?"

As I've said here many times before, I had no idea when I started, how absolutely delightful this experience would be. I can't thank you enough for being so welcoming to me, so very, very good to me. I won't go onandonandon. I am, as too often in recent weeks, under the influence of pain meds. I'll just say once more:

Thank you, from my truest heart parts.
God bless you.
I will see you next time.

XOXOXOX

49 heads are better than one . . .

Anonymous M&Co. said...

Peace.

 
Anonymous Emma (UK) said...

Oh Susie, I'll miss you. Take care and look after yourself but please come back soon. You're the first site I visit every day when I log on at work and I love your writing. I can only imagine what you're going through at the moment and send you much blove. x

 
Blogger SoozieQ said...

Take care of yourself Susie. That truly is the most important thing you can and should do right now (and always)

 
Anonymous RzDrms said...

To quote you, back to you: "I am a better person, with more possibilities in my life, for having had my path cross [yours], as we journeyed through this time and place." I will miss you terribly, but I'm just an e-mail away if you need anything. Thank you for a gut-wrenching, honest, and much-appreciated post. Much love to you from me.

 
Anonymous Heartworks said...

Susie, Thanks for your inspiring, insightful post. I have been lurking for at least a year and only knew Nikki through comments here and at Mrtl's but still I found her death heartbreaking. It made me re-think my notions of living a full life and what I came up with was exactly what you suggested. You take the risk. You don't let fear hold you back, you live with an open loving heart and an open mind.

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful self and your beautiful family. Please take care of you. We'll wait right here- until next time.

 
Blogger Squirl said...

Susie, that post was so beautiful. Nikki's death was a very strong thing. Especially since most of us have never met her. I really appreciate that you contacted me right away. It was important.

Please take care of yourself. Wouldn't want it any other way. We'll miss you. If you can do your Sunday posts, well, you know I'll be there looking for them. If not, I'll be thinking of you.

You know my e-mail address and my phone number.

I love you, sis!

 
Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes said...

Awwww, Susie, you know you can take all the time you need and we'll still be here for you.

I had gotten to know Nikki via comments and emails over the last few months, and certainly regarded her as a real friend. And my internet friends are some of my dearest friends in the world.

We'll be in touch off-blog, I know. Thanks for writing what is in so many of our hearts, and we'll leave the porch light on in case you stay out late.

 
Anonymous Sharkey said...

I only knew Nikki through her comments on others' blogs, and as I think about it, I really only know you from the comments that we've exchanged. But you both have truly touched my life. She for the way she picked herself back up after Sarah's death and worked so hard to help others, and you for always having a kind word and wanting to leave the (blog)world just a little bit better place than when you found it.

I will miss your posts--they're always funny, thoughtful, insightful, or clever--sometimes all those things at once. I do hope you're able to keep up with the Church of the Sunday Post, and maybe even give us a little sermon now and then. I admire your ability to express your faith so freely, and that you do it without offending anyone.

Take care of yourself and be well!

 
Anonymous kalki said...

Take care of you.

 
Anonymous Peaches said...

I'll be praying for you, dont forget that.

I still have no words.

I love you.

 
Blogger eclectic said...

I'm weeping. For so many reasons!

But I'm so thankful to know you, and to be your sister and your friend. I am worried for you, and will keep you in the front of my thoughts and prayers until you are healed. We will have contact off-blog, but I'll miss your particular brand of blogging until you come back.

Be well, be loved. For you are well-loved.

 
Anonymous Daphne said...

I am truly sorry to hear you are still in pain. Please do take care of yourself.

Thank you again for sharing yourself with us. You are an amazing person and I've learned a lot from reading your blog.

 
Blogger JessicaRabbit said...

Me and the Betards are always here for you if you need some internet loving baby.

You know how to reach us, and we all love you bunches.

Though my love comes with less slobber then Hermiones.....

 
Blogger Jim said...

Daphne is right - we're all sorry you're still in pain and we hope and pray that you soon are back to yourself - for your sake and you beautiful family's.

We'll wait for you here. Take your time. Do it right. Get 100% re-Susie-fied.

 
Blogger mrtl said...

Beautifully said, Susie, as I knew it would be. I love your challenge, and will accept it.

This blogging business has become pretty heady... like the saying, "It's only fun till someone gets hurt." I'm feeling the need to cut back, too. Life is stepping up for me as well, making for a great excuse to duck out for a while.

Take care of yourself, your loves, and be sure to check in from time to time. If you don't, I'll kick your ass when I'm home in November. ;)

Love you

 
Blogger Karen said...

Oh, I'm crying too. I'm just sad. Sad for you. Sad for everything.

Be well, Susie.

 
Anonymous katietoyboy said...

Susie, I waited paiently for your post about Nikki because I knew it would help us and it did very much. I am going to miss your 'doses' of goodness but will wait until all is peaceful again with you. Agree with Bucky's idea to leave the porch light on for you. Please take good care of you and yours and 'see' you back here in a while

xxoo

 
Anonymous Kelly said...

Susie, I've only commented occasionally, but I check in on you at least weekly. You are right about Internet aquaintances... as I read about Nikki I had my hand to my mouth and my co-worker asked what was wrong and I welled up with tears and read the rest of your post. Many of us hang around the same blogs (Hi squirl) Although we don't "know" each other, I feel real compassion and good wishes to you and your family... take care Susie, I'll be sending you good karma.

 
Blogger WILLIAM said...

Peace be with you.

Luke 10:29-37

 
Blogger Nilbo said...

Jung was a pretty smart guy, but here's a test of whether friends or real or not:

Tell people you're going away for a bit, to heal yourself. Those who understand are your friends. Those who understand, are patient, and welcome you back when you return as if you had never been away - those are your best friends of all.

As I told you privately, I am sorry for our loss. I hope you are able to marshall your considerable resources - family, friends, faith, and the internal strength we know you possess in abundance - to weather these storms.

But don't be away too long, dear. You make the world a better place with your musings, your humour, and your thoughtfulness. That's not a responsibility you bear, but it IS a gift you've been given. And to whom much is given, much really is expected. Sorry.

The good news (or should that be Good News)? Doing God's work brings its own joy and its own measure of healing. Funny how that works - almost like ... well, like there was some thought put into it.

Go; heal; come back; and make us laugh again. That's an order.

Don't make me sic Rosie on your ass. Because you know I can. And you know I will.

 
Blogger LadyBug said...

I love you, dear Susie. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

God bless you, my friend, until next time.

 
Anonymous Jennifer said...

This post is so beautiful. I've been a silent fan of yours for a very, very long time. But never moreso than today.

I wish you peace.

 
Blogger Circus Kelli said...

I love you Miss Susie Fairchild, and the way you have about you of making people feel better.

Thank you for all you've done for me.

Please let me know if I can help in any way. You and your lovely family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

 
Blogger Effie said...

Oh Susie--just so you know I love you! Internet friends are TRUE friends even if we never get to meet. Somehow we bare our souls here and I feel so connected it's amazing!

I pray that all is well and goes well for you. I'll definitely miss you but the most important part is that you take care of you!

Hugs and love my friend! God bless!
Effie

 
Blogger dashababy said...

Dear Susie,
You are so special to alot of us that come here. I will miss you and hope that you have victory over what is threatening your health.
You are able to articulate how most of us feel about bloggers being friends even tho we have never met in person. This is a personal venue where we can be very close to our real selves.
I have enjoyed getting to know you thru your always thoughtful, kind and always meaningful no matter how silly posts, you always make a good point. The way you respond to everyones comment makes us feel special and that to me is what I have gotten from the very beginning, you make people feel special.
So, thank you and we'll see you next time.
With much blove and admiration,
Dashababymama/Kathy :)

 
Blogger Michele in Michigan said...

I'll miss you, but will be right here when you get back. Take care of yourself & know that so many out here care for you.

Email if you need to, you had my yahoo addy. My AOL is under mikki630

Hugs.

 
Blogger hellokittn said...

Susie, this post is so beautiful and exemplifies everything that I find wonderful and pure about you. I have never met Nikki, but I feel inspired just by being of witness to her greatness through you.

Thank you for this, that, and everything. Many well-wishes towards your recovery. Later Gator :-*!!!

 
Anonymous RzDrms said...

after reading nilbo's comment about your gift of humour, i was reminded of your bout with booty flies. while this "last" post has made me cry, i wanted to leave here with a good laugh under my belt, so i searched until i found my most favorite blog entry of all time, "booty flies." thanks for the laughs, thanks for the tears, thank God for you. God Bless.

 
Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

Gosh darn this blogosphere. All acting like real life! Who, or what, does it think it is anyway?! Real people? Ha!

Hopefully you can peek in on us from time to time. This "blog thang" sure does consume, but I've seen more benefit than anything. If you don't come visit, how will you know what whacky antics we're up to?

 
Anonymous Cindy said...

I know I'm procrastinator, and at times shy, but I always intend to comment on your entertaining stories and lovely pictures - but I haven't lately. Your comments about Nikki, and Sarah, are again a jolt to remind me to speak up and say what I feel more often.

I've read your blog from pretty much the beginning - and I've enjoyed sooo many posts. I had already added your blog to my links from the start but your "Booty Flies" was a 'Classic' and you became a must-read everyday blogger for me. From your posts and comments you've entertained, enlightened, lightened, and lived - and you've garnered so much respect from so many people - but especially from me. Thank you for being who you are.

Take care of yourself - you'll be missed but you have to do what is right for you and your family. When the time is right,
...Until next time....

 
Blogger ieatcrayonz said...

Take care and God Bless, Susie. It is my honor, our honor to call you a "friend." This was a beautiful tribute to Nikki, and at times it squeezed my heart so hard that I could hardly breathe. She will be missed, but never forgotten.

As much as the blogworld feels like the real world, our real lives take priority. I had to decide that for myself, and it hurt.

Until we meet again, dear heart.

 
Anonymous deneen said...

I wish we all took as much care as you in all that we do. You are one of those people that just runneth over with love and compassion for others and show it in such a graceful way.

Sometimes it takes a little step back to think things through and listen to what is going on inside ourselves. Take that time. You deserve that and so much more.

Deneen

 
Blogger Andrea said...

Oh, Susie...I'm so sorry life has been so rough for you in so many areas lately. I haven't commented much lately (here or anywhere, really), but I always check in, and will continue to (or else will figure out once and for all how to subscribe to RSS so I'll know when you do come back!).

You were one of my first blog-friends...one of my first commenters. I will miss you so much! And still hope I can meet you IRL sometime.

See you next time, sister.

 
Blogger MrsDoF said...

When my sons were young and we had a regular bedtime prayers routine, I usually stood at the door in the dark and quoted Genesis 31:49.
"May the Lord watch between me and thee, while we are absent one from the other"
I believe it is the King James Version, which was what I used when getting prizes for learning Scripture verses for Sunday School. A more modern set of Bible words jist don' feel right.

I'll miss your stories, but realize that a burden laid down awhile for rest will feel lighter when picked up again.
Until Next Time....
~~love and Huggs, Diane

 
Blogger Traci said...

Susie, darlin'...I love you to pieces. I am with all these other folks here when I say I'll miss you. It is so important for you to take care of yourself and your stuff first and foremost. I'll be here with everyone else when you return! Until then I'll see how silly I can be with the emails! MWAH!

 
Anonymous Katy said...

"Susie" I have had my head up my butt for the last three months with school but the semester is over now. I've been looking around on your blog and, like, am freaking out about all that I am reading. Please email me and tell me exactly what is wrong with you (gallstones? kidney stones?). What was happening in Europe?

I'm sorry about the loss of your friends Nikki and Sarah.

I had wondered why I hadn't heard anything from you. I'll try to do better.

 
Anonymous debutaunt said...

I'm crying. But it's a good cry.

Thank you. My blog friends have been my lifeline - literally.

You take care of you, and we will be here when you are ready.

Much much love.
Debs

 
Blogger Nina said...

"What we do for ourselves alone dies with us , But what we do for others and the world remains and is imortal."

Just be taking care of you . . .
Sending love and healing thoughts.

 
Anonymous sheryl said...

I've felt so tongue-tied for so long now taht I am sure I want to say something, it's hard.

Nikki is loved. You are loved.

The people who doubt the power of positive the internet have never been here.

Be seeing you,
Sheryl

 
Blogger Vajana said...

obviously we will miss you. I think what you wrote about Nikki is amazing, and as always, you inspire me to be a better person.

Take care of yourself, looking forward to hearing from you soon.

 
Blogger Sheryle said...

Susie, taking care of yourself is the most important thing right now. Having gone through the ups and downs of a serious illness myself, I can tell you that you need that time and I'm glad you're taking it.

I've enjoyed reading your blog and have linked to it and directly others to read your excellent writing (I tell my husband and select friends they have booty flies, btw). "See" you after a while, but take all the time you need.

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

 
Blogger Dang Cold.. said...

My angel Susie. Did you think you had lost me that easily? No such luck. I'm heartbroken for you. You're adored so very much and always will be. By all of us. The same holds true for dear Nikki. If there's a way to hug and hold someone over the blogosphere, I'm hugging and holding you right now. Take all the time you need and think nothing of it. We'll be here waiting for you. That's a promise.

Love you always,

dc

 
Anonymous The Sisters said...

Susie,
Most of the sisters are never at
a lack of words. I know you have seen our babble in action.

First and foremost as everyone has
said, you must take care of you.

Our little present to you is said
best by Maya Angelou:

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Thank you for being you.

Love,
"The Sisters"

Do the tears show up on this post?

 
Blogger Von Krankipantzen said...

Dear Susie

Thank you for your post about Nikki. You always know how to say the perfect thing. I am sorry to hear that your health is still an issue. I hope taking some time off to rest and be with your family is just what does the trick to get you feeling much better. Take care. I'll miss you but I'll be hanging around. You can't get rid of me that easy! ;-)

Love,
Stacey
xxoo

 
Blogger Annejelynn said...

Susie, dear - you are loved and adored.

 
Anonymous ~Kabe said...

What a beautiful, beautiful tribute.

I am thankful to you for sharing your life, your thoughts and your heart. After reading 45 comments on this post, recognizing many names and agreeing with every one of them, I had to come out of lurker-dom to say "thank you."

I hope for your speedy return, but understand if that is not in the cards.

You will be in my thoughts!

 
Blogger It's Me, Maven... said...

Color me a late-Kate...

Hoping for the very best for you and your recovery. And I'm emailable if you need me.

Peace, and love, and healing to you. Always.

 
Anonymous kerri anne said...

That was beautiful. You can just feel how much you loved the both of them. And how loved they, and so many others, make you feel. Prayers and hugs and happy health to you babe.

 
Anonymous Torrie said...

Susie, due to my recent circumstances I am just reading this now. I wish you nothing but the best. I hope you find an answer to your medical problems, and selfishly, I hope you come back to us ASAP.
Thank you for all the support you have shown me.

Blove,

Torrie

 


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