Wednesday, September 11, 2013

too fast

Yesterday our dear friend Patty succumbed to cancer. Ten weeks, almost to the day, from diagnosis to death. So shockingly, brutally, horribly quick that we could barely wrap our minds around the reality before she was gone. When my father called me with the news yesterday afternoon, he had to repeat it three times, because although we knew she was close to the end, it wasn't possible that the end had actually come.

With Terzo at Christmas, 2006

It's hard to explain what Patty meant to our family, because she was, to the end, an exception to most rules. I first knew her as a youth group leader in our church when I was in 6th grade, over 30 years ago. She drove us to the Philadelphia International Airport when my family moved to London less than a year later. Both my brother and I recall the elaborate sugar eggs she gave us (because it was just before Easter)—a supremely impractical gift for an international flight and transcontinental move, but we treasured them for years. That summed up Patty to a tee: not always practical, but always there to help when you needed a hand, often with a gesture that showed just how special she thought you were.

Holding (and propping up) Secondo's sheep at a 4-H fair, 2007

Our family's friendship with her was cemented when she moved to England almost two years later, and she gradually became a part of our family. She always paid special attention to us kids, which was her particular talent. She even took me for a weekend jaunt to Paris when I was 16.

With Primo and Secondo, 2001

This continued with my children, who thought the sun rose and set on her. With her sister Chris, she took them on afternoon jaunts to tea at the Ritz-Carlton and art museums and a weekend jaunt to Williamsburg. She made a point of going to their sheep shows and soccer games and baseball games and road races and horse shows. She joked and talked and played with them at all family gatherings. She had long-running inside jokes with them: a Barry Manilow album that she and my eldest traded back and forth in elaborate gift-giving rituals (he even brought it when he visited her in the hospital); the nickname "Potty," bestowed by Secondo, after she was left stranded in my parents half-bath during a holiday game of hide and seek in which seeker Terzo lost interest.

Hamming it up in the barn for Secondo, 2009

It is hard to list all that she gave to our family, but one of the greatest gifts was her dedication to caring for our animals each year as we took a much-needed family vacation. It's not everyone that volunteers for such an arduous task, but she took it on with grace and kindness, even pulling Oreo the bunny back from the brink of death one year.

My favorite picture of her (she wouldn't be happy to hear it!), taken during sheep shearing 2011

As with all dear ones, the loss will continue to echo as traditional times we spent with her come and go. Holidays will be difficult. Sheep shearings and birthday celebrations and piano recitals will be difficult. The list alone shows how blessed our family was to have her in our lives.


  1. I'm so very sorry for your loss. She seemed like a remarkable woman.

  2. Sorry to hear it Kris. She sounds like an amazing friend.