Last week, as I was busily whining about how busy my week was getting in San Diego, unbeknownst to me, my dear friend Vadan was in the process of living her last days here in Taos. Saturday evening, as I was packing, I got an e-mail message from her family to come and see her one last time...but there I was, 1,000 miles away. I don't need to tell you how that felt.
I met Vadan around 1995, when we both hung out weaving in Denise Miller's studio here in Taos. We spent days weaving and talking, or sometimes dyeing our yarns in natural dyes under Denise's expert supervision. Those were peaceful days. I was pretty new to Taos and had few friends. Vadan was the kind of person who took you right in like you were part of her family. There were so many similarities between her and the sister I lost to breast cancer, it was almost erie. Over time, I decided secretly that maybe she had been sent to me to help me make up for the years I had missed with Vicki. They were so much alike...always the happiest person in the room, making everyone feel welcome and included.
Sadly, there were more similarities than I wanted. Shortly after getting to know her, Vadan was diagnosed with breast cancer. Hers is a long story, a hard fought battle over many ups and downs. It later resurfaced in other parts of her body, and at one point about 5 years ago, in a condition where I'm guessing many would have just let go, she fought it down once again.
Through those years, we shared lots of great times together. Long breakfasts with other friends, chatting over knitting projects. Planning for and sharing our annual booth at Wool Festival was a fun time for us...she always brought the antiques and golden boughs of aspens to decorate our booth. She never once complained about her health...in fact, seldom mentioning it unless you asked. She had a will of iron, a smile that never stopped, and as our friend Nancy wrote today, she always had an open shine that existed on her face...before and after the cancer events. Her eyes were always clear and glistening with living. This was a woman with a very full life and no time for self pity.
I learned so much from Vadan, and will hold those lessons in my heart as my own life continues. Not by her words so much as by her example. She was a tireless volunteer in our community, and spent these last years lovingly teaching the fiber classes at our local Waldorf school. She never had a bad word to say...in fact, she just didn't have time for that. She had an inner peace and sense of priorities that I have always envied. No petty thoughts in her world...she knew, better than many of us, that life was just too short. She lived an open, honest, happy and caring life. She left behind two wonderful adult children and a husband who deserves a medal for his dedication, love and support throughout her illness.
So today, a small group of us said good bye in a private chapel near their home. It was an amazing experience. The chapel was filled with adults and many of her students from the Waldorf school. The singing was amazing, as though there were angels there. A drum beat softly at the beginning, followed by a silent Tibetan blessing ceremony. Prayers of all sorts were offered up, including a native American prayer to the four directions. The love in the room was palpable. I felt honored to be there, honored to have been part of her life. She is my hero.
Oh...one last thing. As we were driving east across Arizona Monday morning, I was captured by some clouds that were outside my window just before the sun made her ascent. I was thinking I had never seen clouds quite like that before, and that I should take a photo (as best I could with my iPhone). After taking my picture and staring at them so some more, I suddenly saw the shapes of angels flying north and eastward. Think of me what you will...but I saw them. I wondered, at the time, if they were headed to Vadan...can you see them, too?