For all of us, days open into tomorrows, and we tend to think this cadence is steady and sure. We fool ourselves into somehow believing this pace is our due, forever and ever. Through various challenges in the past week, I have been reminded to never take life as we know it for granted.
My complacency was shattered upon learning one of my lifelong friends had died. Patty “Tootie” Garn and I started the first day of first grade together, and had built many shared memories. We were junior high cheerleaders together, and I loved walking home with her, whispering secrets and sharing silliness and laughter in those happy years.
Just three weeks ago she was diagnosed with cancer, and most were not even aware she was sick. Standing in the cemetery for her funeral, the looks of shock and disbelief was evident on the sad faces surrounding me. Our classmate, Linda, who I hadn’t seen in far too long hugged me and said, “You two were my very first friends.” We were reeling with this unexpected loss.
Our shared history goes so far back, even our fathers were schoolmates and friends. With a joyful presence, Patty became an oncology nurse and cared for patients with kindness over a 40-year career. Born with a compassionate heart, her skill and her touch was a balm to those who were suffering.
While working one day in a colonoscopy clinic, she realized I was in for my first-ever baseline test. She came to me, asking if I would rather she stepped aside and let someone else assist. I told her she was my trusted friend since we were toddlers, and I would always choose her as my nurse.
A warrior on the softball field, Patty had been an excellent pitcher, trained by her dad from a very young age. I enjoyed cheering for my classmates at our small town ball field, led by Patty’s stand-out pitching, with our friend Linda quite often her equally impressive catcher.
Softball had not yet been established in public schools, or Patty and a great number of our classmates would now be part of our county sports hall of fame, and no doubt many would have been offered college scholarships. They missed this opportunity by one year.
“I wasn’t as good as the girls who came after me,” Patty often said with a smile. She was so proud of her youngest sister, Susie Hardy, who led the class two years behind us to a state championship, the only undefeated team in the state of Ohio in 1979, now members of the county sports hall of fame.
Both sisters credited their father, Earl, who helped hone those pitching skills in their backyard. Our hearts break for Earl, who has laid both of those daughters and his wife to rest in just a few short years. His daughter Pam and her family, along with Patty’s husband, Bill, remain part of that tight-knit family.
One of my last conversations with Patty centered around simple happiness. We agreed on nearly everything, including the need for quiet, simple pleasures, and the wisdom of retreating from that which did not bring joy.
I thought of her when I read this anonymous quote: “Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So, love the people who treat you right and forget about the ones who don’t. And believe that everything happens for a reason.”
So many things we worry over in this life really don’t matter in the end. The lives of those who have meant so much to us along the way is our greatest treasure.
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