See You Again...
It's still hard to believe it's been 23 years this month. My husband, an electrical engineer working for the federal government, had a new thing he wanted to show me, and he seemed excited about it. I was a new mother, exhausted, stoned on medication and trying to keep up with the demands of a two-month-old, but I decided I'd humor him and allowed him to show me. It was this cool thing where people could communicate all over the world through the computer. He showed me where there were "bulletin boards" for any discussion topic at all, and I curiously noted the one for "Parenting." Being a rookie at "mommying," I started to explore it...and I was hooked.
It wasn't long before I ran across some health boards, and I eagerly posted to an epilepsy forum. Then I looked and was disappointed that there was no hydrocephalus board, but I looked through the "other" board, full of miscellaneous posts about various medical issues. Lo and behold...there were some hydrocephalus posts!!
I started reading through them. Most of them were from parents whose young children had "hydro," but then I saw a post that really caught my attention. It was from a woman in Ohio who had two young daughters. Darlene was 31 and had been diagnosed with hydro as a newborn, after being born three months premature.
I excitedly wrote back, and in the days that followed, we instantly connected. We messaged each other, called each other and talked about everything imaginable. It saddened me that she had so much more difficulty with hydro than I did, and I tried to support her as much as I could from afar. She was also a great support to me with my son's autism. We learned we both loved the same music and sang duets over the phone countless times. In the summer of 1997, we met in New York for the first time. We would meet again about 14 years later, in Illinois. I never would have imagined that an online friendship could become so emotionally intimate.
Dar's health was always an issue for her. She had constant severe headaches, was legally blind, and had great difficulty with memory as time went on, but we stayed closely in touch as she moved around several times.
Then one day in January this year, I logged on to my Facebook account to see a note from her daughter. Dar had been suffering from upper respiratory symptoms and had gone into the hospital when she began to have trouble breathing, and she suddenly stopped. My sweet friend was gone at only 53 years old.
The day after Dar's death, I awakened with a song in my head. Nothing unusual about that; it happens all the time, but this one, Carrie Underwood's "See You Again," is one I never really cared for because of the heavy pop arrangement. I'm a country fan--mostly traditional--but I started thinking about the song and then looked up the lyrics. I suddenly caught my breath as I read them. She seemed to be speaking to me through the song. Now, whenever I hear it, I sing it loudly, for her, and it may be strange, but I feel her singing it with me.
Today, July 2, would be her 54th birthday. I have been in touch with one of her daughters since, and I thank God for Bethany. She is my connection to Dar. I miss my "sister" so much that my heart is breaking as I write. She showed me how to live with frustrating and debilitating health issues, and with courage and grace. I miss her with every breath. Fly high with the angels, Dar-lin'.
In loving memory of Darlene Ann Lewis Sweetman (July 2, 1960-January 23, 2014)