Yesterday, I drove to Amherst, MA to pay a shiva (condolence) call at the home of Leah's mom. Neither Leah nor her mom are Jewish, but Leah had met a rabbi at hospice and when he explained the meaning and purpose of the 7-day mourning ritual, Leah was all in. It was her final and wonderful gift to those who loved her.
As I mentioned several posts back, I never met Leah in person. I didn't know her mom either. But something compelled me to make the journey. On the drive there I thought about what I might say to the strangers I was about to meet. I couldn't think of much. I was too sad. When I arrived, the narrow wooded drive was chock full of cars. I entered the house and explained who I was to the woman I somehow sensed was Leah's mother. She seemed shocked at first. It was a rather complex and long-winded introduction, but she realized who I was and welcomed me with open arms. She immediately introduced me to her partner, Leah's other mom. They made me feel right at home.
After about 30 minutes, Leah's moms stood up and thanked us all for coming, explaining the concept of shiva, and how Leah had organized the event with the help of Rabbi Charlie. Then they asked anyone who cared to to share something about Leah. Turns out many of the people in the room didn't know Leah; they were there for the women who stayed at her beside 24 hours a day for two weeks until Leah found peace. After 4 or 5 people spoke, her mom nodded toward me. The reason I'd gone to Amherst became clear.
I spoke about meeting Leah on line on the LLS Discussion Boards. I described our improbable cyber friendship. I talked about Leahness, about her strength, her sense of humor, her generosity. The Leah I knew from on line posts and emails was the same woman the others had described. I'd been lucky to have experienced the essence of Leah. It was wonderful to be able to take part in this remembrance of a one-of-a-kind woman. Leukemia, I hate you.
I left behind an envelope filled with tributes to Leah from the LLS Discussion Boards, along with many messages of condolence. As I left her moms' house, I felt cheated and blessed. Cheated that my relationship with Leah was over, that someone I would have liked to have known better was gone. Blessed that I knew her at all, and was able to share the little I knew with those she left behind.