If you pay attention, you will find that every person who comes into your life was brought to you to serve a purpose. Sometimes we never get the opportunity to reflect on this and sometimes we don’t get the chance to let people know how they are valued. If you are open to it, one of the gifts of death for a survivor is the appreciation for how precious life is and how important human connections and love really are. Losing something causes great pain, pain that only comes from our abilities to also experience great joys. The two are very connected and often written about. We can make different choices when we suffer from a loss. Some may need solitude while some may reach for support. What I know is there is no wrong or right; there is just what we as individuals need to do in our own way to survive the heart ache.
When my mother died, I was 22 years old and I took a very different path of grieving than I am currently. I was protective, closed, and angry for some time. I was afraid to have that joy again for fear of it being stolen. It wasn’t until I met Candice 3 ½ years later, that I started to truly let new love back into my life. She was hysterical, intelligent, and confident. She also drove a hot sports car and wore short skirts. What else can I say, she was hot and SMART. I fell for her pretty quickly!
We were together 14 ½ years when Candice passed away. We both spent a lot of time the first few years taking turns going to graduate school. The hours of painful studying paid off by allowing us to pursue our career choices that brought us joy. Through the years, we had our losses and our gains, but we always had each other to love and support one another. We were a team and we understood that relationships required some sacrifice, compromise and work. After all, if you made time for the “painful” parts, you would find a connection that would give you just as many joyful moments too.
On August 31st, I had the great honor of witnessing a love that paralleled so many aspects of my relationship with Candice. AC Kim and Kim Pratt tied the knot after a “mere” 14 ½ years together. As a “first” wedding since I lost Candice, I was very scared that I would be so sad for a variety of reasons that I would have to run out. However, to my surprise, I was mostly filled with pure joy.
In order to explain this “pure joy”, I need to explain how these two individuals came to play in Candice and my life. In 2010, I joined a basketball league and honestly, there weren’t many people that would come out and watch the Sunday games. However AC and Candice were loyal and attended and this is how they formally met. It was an instant connection through humor and maybe “kindergarten crushes”. Their affection for each other soon become palpable….literally. They would get these big smiles and hug each other with great ferocity. Kim and I probably should have been a little jealous, but who could get in the way of such happy moments and besides it was adorable! Candice instantly placed AC at the top of the “list” as a great bear hugger. Note: AC replaced my father, who finds this unfair – but mostly because he is uber competitive.
As AC and Candice were busy hugging each other, Kim and I were busy working on a legendary film documentary for the basketball league that included Slumdog street begging, break ups and new connections, basketball trivia and of course our “peeps” affinity for cats. And by “we”, I mean mostly Kim (I played a small cameo role). Kim has an amazing gift for capturing things on film and with her good natured, welcoming and very funny charm, she creates an ease for anyone who meets her.
Shortly after that season, AC and Kim moved back to the Bay area. We would see them a few more times over the years at events like the Gaymazing race in Provincetown and we would always reflect afterwards about what great individuals Kim and AC were but also an amazing couple. Through Facebook, we would occasionally connect but we did not know each other like those in the same circle of friends over many years. I know that Candice and AC connected in 2013 via Facebook when both of them lost their mothers months apart. Although Candice never explicitly told me, I know that she ramped up her annual fundraising and team efforts for the NOCC (National Ovarian Cancer Coaliton) race in 2013 for AC.
When Candice was in the hospital, I would spend the majority of my days setting daily goals/wishes with Candice. I would do everything in my power to make them happen. These were mostly just simple pleasures, like ordering her favorite foods, having friends visit, ect... However on one particular day, Candice was feeling ambitious and announced a BIG request. She looked at me and said I could use a bear hug from AC. I was shocked! I was quick to tell her that I wish that could happen, but AC was too far away.
Little did I know that my network of human angels would go to work on this immediately. Needless to say, Niki was off connecting with AC and Kim on the task at hand. Candice’s illness was rapid and her time was limited but AC and Kim managed to make the trip from California (for one day!). Candice had already spoken her last words, but she had the ability for one more sign and it was a thumbs up after receiving an AC bear hug. Words cannot describe the gratitude I have for these two women and their enormous act of kindness.
What I knew that day was that AC gave Candice a moment of “pure joy” during a time of extreme pain. This is the kind of thing that I believe only comes from love. Witnessing AC and Kim getting married had moments of sadness for me, but with Candice in my heart and my whole being, I was able to feel pure joy for these two women who I have grown to love so dearly!
AC and Kim share a relationship with the same tenants of marriage that Candice and I tried to live by. I was thrilled that AC paraphrased and applied a quote from my blog into her vows to Kim: In truth though, I never thought our marriage was "equal" to most marriages ……. In fact, I always thought we had a far "superior" relationship. She couldn’t have been more accurate and it made me feel like I was passing them Candice and my baton knowing they would finish off this crazy race we call life with the gold metal.
Although, I couldn’t help being envious that I didn’t have the years ahead of me with Candice, this is my wish for you both as eloquently expressed in your ceremony: -“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.” Winne the Pooh
Thank you AC and Kim.
With Joy and Love Always,
Stephanie (and Candice approved)