I accepted the friend request but was unable to exchange messages with her right away.
It was the end of July before I remembered to write to her before leaving for our family vacation.
(On my list of things to do before leaving: stop the mail, contact the dog sitter, clean the bathrooms, write to Claudine)
When she responded, she told me that she was having health problems.
Serious ones. The type with the stages.
By the time our correspondence continued, I was already in Florida-- but because of the nature of her personal news, I did not mention that I was on vacation.
I think I withheld that information because it felt out of place in a conversation about chemotherapy.
Claudine mentioned that Augie was going to visit her from Texas in a few days.
I was happy for her. I even requested that they take pictures of Augie's visit.
Before I signed off, I told her that I was going to pray for her. And I did.
That evening, I told Steve about my friend's condition and he confirmed that it was grave.
While I was in Florida, I made a conscious decision not to post pictures online.
I was trying to be present, and in the moment--instead of focusing on the perfectly staged shot to share with friends. I stuck to this decision until six days into the trip I felt the urge to post this photo of Steve on Facebook. (Something about the beauty of the double rainbows and the symbol of God’s promise)
Suddenly I received a message from Claudine:
“Are you in Tampa?” she inquired.
I said, "yes, I've been here since Saturday. Tomorrow is our last full day here. We leave Saturday morning. Why?"
She said, "Augie is here with me, and she said that you posted a picture saying that you are here too."
I was so confused.
All this while I thought that Claudine still lived in Los Angeles.
I had no idea that while we were chatting earlier in the week--that we were already in the same city. Claudine was excited that I was in town, but because she had chemotherapy scheduled for the next morning, she wanted Augie to be able to see me. She offered that Augie drive her car while she was at her session.
I told her that I would go to see them, because I wanted to see her.
I asked Steve because I don’t drive well in unfamiliar cities
Steve agreed to take me, (which in itself is a miracle as Steve is not a morning person)
The next morning, although we hit traffic and sudden torrential rain, we got to Claudine’s house on time. The moment I stepped in, for some reason, Claudine, Augie and I started laughing about one
thing after another. Our time together was brief but filled with so much joy.
We chatted, laughed and teased each other non-stop until Claudine excused herself to get ready for her appointment.
While Claudine was in the shower, out-of-the-blue Augie suddenly asked me,
“What made you come?”
I asked, "you mean here for vacation?”
She said--“no, here, this morning.”
I looked at her and said: “I wanted to pray for her.”
Augie’s already large eyes got even larger as she said, "Chesca. This is why I decided to come too.”
"I wanted to pray with her because “When two or more are gathered...” Augie started to say...
I interrupted her:
“...There I am in their midst.” (-Matt 18:20)
I don’t know how to put into words the experience of praying with Claudine and Augie that morning, amidst the mist and steam of Claudine’s after-shower bathroom.
(It was the only private place we had as Steve, Claudine’s family and guests were in the living room)
The three of us held each other praying for healing, with uncontrollable tears streaming down our faces.
By the time we were done praying--there was a serenely peaceful look on Claudine’s face that I shall
Last week, I made the 300 mile drive to visit my mother for her birthday.
Right before I pulled out of my driveway, I got a message from Augie telling me that Claudine needed prayers.
I spent the next 5 hours of my drive, praying for Claudine.
I was unsure of exactly what to pray for.
I prayed for miraculous healing, but I also prayed for God’s Will for her and that if she was to go, that she transitioned peacefully without suffering.
I wish that this is the part where I report a miracle, that Claudine defied all medical prognosis and is well today.
But that is not the case.
A few hours later, as I was in the middle of planting a huge flowering Chrysanthemum plant for my mom in honor of her 85th birthday, I got the message from Augie telling me that Claudine had passed away.
She was 45 years old.
I’ve been pondering, processing and trying to figure out what that whole experience was all about.
What I do know is that, although I was not close to Claudine, being drawn to contact her and see her 41 days before her death has left me with an unmistakeable gift that I hope I never forget.
The peace, joy and confidence I saw in her eyes gave me so much comfort.
It somehow reminded me that a lot of what makes me crazy on a daily basis, does not really matter.
While this may sound like I am giving up on life, on the contrary, I feel compelled to keep doing my best but to do so while surrendering the outcome.
I hope that I become as calm as her when I near the end of my life...or at the very least in my life today as I live through the experience of parenting teenagers.
Seeing Claudine smile ever so sweetly as she was dealing with her terminal illness has pushed me to assess my approach to each day.
I am grateful that my Claudine Experience is encouraging me to:
1. Give up worry.
3. Do my best in all I do, but let go of all expectations.
4. Stop wrestling with life.
5. Live fearlessly and with great faith in God.
6. Have only good intentions in all I do
7. Let go of my ego
8. Keep my mind and heart open
10. Just do it.
(For my friend Claudine: 1/19/1970-9/10/2015)