I knew what it meant. It was from Bob, someone I met and worked with in 1970 as part of the small group of lawyers who started Ralph Nader’s advocacy groups. Nancy was his wife. She died 5 days ago and he wanted those of us who knew her from back then, as well as more recently to know. The funeral is tonight. Susan and I will go.
The last time we saw Bob and Nancy was a little over two years ago at a dinner event that brought together many us from that early Ralph Nader era. We hadn’t seen each other for a while and during that evening Susan and Nancy had a chance to talk about something they discovered they had in common: Breast Cancer. They were both talking about their survivorship and how well they were doing. Nancy died from her breast cancer on September 7th.
It took my breath away. A shudder of sadness washed over my body as I fought back tears. The central question I faced in 2000 as Susan’s prognosis of her breast cancer became grave was: “How am I going to be with Susan for the last, The Actual dance?” Now my friend Bob, a person whom I experienced as one of the kindest, sweetest and calm people I have ever met, and clearly smart as a whip, had experienced that moment.
The news saddened me deeply and opened up that nascent wound in my heart and mind about “how am I going to do this?” No Susan's breast cancer has not come back -- yet.
Those familiar with the play know that the metaphor is of a magnificent dance in a ballroom placed in a different world and time dimension as one transitions out of this world. Here are the last words in the play:
I look at my email with trepidation sometimes. At our age – 72 – SAD NEWS is too often the words which follow: “Subject” in the header. We all know what is going to follow. Who in our life journey is now gone? How can we help and support their loved ones who must now navigate a different world. What memories might we share?
So here is the Nancy memory:
Thursday, November 26, 1970. What were the families of 13 young men and women who were being paid $4,000 for a year of work by Ralph Nader going to do for Thanksgiving? We were invited to Bob & Nancy’s apartment and we all pitched in to buy a big turkey. There is a picture somewhere of our then 5 month old son, Marcus, posing in front of a baked turkey almost the same size as Marcus alongside smiling Bob and Nancy.