Several months after she has died, we have a memorial service for Lucy. It is in a large church, and the turnout is good. She was universally well liked, and people have come not just from NYU and Bellevue, but from St. Luke's Roosevelt, a hospital she worked at before Bellevue. There are some people from Temple University Hospital as well; I appreciate that they made the trip up from Philadelphia to honor Lucy, and I am happy to see some of them again after all these years.
Sadie has asked me to speak. I try to relax and not get too emotional listening to the other eulogizers, so I'll be able to get the words out when it's my time to go up to the dais.
Daniel is talking about how Lucy was his hero. That's a big theme in my piece too. No surprise there, I guess. But after today it'll be out in the open, how we both thought of her as our hero. How we are so alike, yet at odds. Will anyone else notice that besides me.
Daniel goes on to add that his grandfather was also his hero, and he is doubly put upon because his grandfather recently died. "This has been a bad month for me," he complains.
"I can't believe he's making it into something about him. That is so typical," my friend Gideon the social worker, whispers to me. "This is not about you!" he hisses, slightly louder.
It is my turn to speak, and I quickly ascend the carpeted stairs, take my place at the podium, and take a slow, silent breath. I wish it wouldn't, but my voice is quivering, the paper shakes in my hand as I read what I have prepared.
Lucy Jones was my friend.
She was my colleague, and also, intermittently, over the last dozen years, she was my hero.
When I was a second year medical student at Temple University in Philadelphia, I was doing research on the psychiatry ward. I would see this one resident when she was post-call, usually wearing a red Hawaiian shirt with her hair sticking up every which way. She had a Southern accent, and she was funny, and irreverent as all hell. She had a way of talking to the attendings at staff meetings that simultaneously would ruffle their feathers and tickle their funnybones.
I immediately looked up to her. I felt we had a bond somehow, that we were cut from the same cloth, and she was me, only five years ahead of me. I think on some level I simply wanted to be her.
I even felt personally vindicated and validated somehow, when she was named Chief Resident in her fourth year. After a while, I got up the nerve to ask her if I could hang out at the psych ER with her when she was on call. On the day we agreed that I would come in, I spent the afternoon making Korean wontons so I wouldn't come empty-handed to the ER. Not a single patient came in that rainy night, and we got to talking while we ate our wontons.
I thought she was so cool, and smart.
Six years later, I began my job at the Bellevue CPEP.
On the first day when I walked in, there was Lucy. I knew I was in the right place.
The times I remember most were in the early days when Lucy would be post-call and sleep deprived, and even more disinhibited than usual, on Thursday mornings, which was when we'd have faculty meetings with Dr.McGill. He used to have to separate us because otherwise, we'd sit together and make wisecracks and whisper to each other throughout the meeting. Afterwards, we'd share a cab uptown and gossip and scheme during the ride.
She confided in me that she had had breast cancer a while back, and that I should get supplemental disability insurance. I did.
She told me to see her accountant. I did.
She told me to go to her therapist. I did, and I owe her a debt of gratitude for that one, I can assure you.
She told me to use her weekend house in the Hamptons; it was empty during the week, and I did that too.
And when she told me Dr. McGill was leaving, and she was going to be named the new director, I could barely believe it, I was so excited for her, and so proud of her.
And then she called me one day while I was in her house in East Hampton and she was in the city, and she told me that her cancer was back.
And I asked her if she was scared.
And she said "Am I scared? Hell No! I'm mad as hell."
And I thought she was bluffing, but she wasn't.
I told her I loved her and hung up the phone and cried.
She was angry and I was scared.
And after it was over, and the fight, fought so valiantly and completely, was finally done, I was the angry one.
It is simply unfair that she has to go and I get to stay.
I feel guilty when I lie on the hammock at my house and do the crossword, because I know she would be doing that at her house, if she were still here.
I felt guilty a lot when I was pregnant, especially. I felt so healthy, happy, and growing with life, and Lucy was getting sicker, and thinner, and more pessimistic. I was just starting my family, and she knew she'd be leaving hers. "You and I are at very different places in our lives right now," she said to me once, in her Queen-of-the-Understatement way.
Lucy always knew she was going to die. We spoke about it often, pretty much every time we talked, after a while. She needed to talk about it, but knew it upset people too much to discuss it. That was one of the recurrent themes: she worried about how upset her cancer was making those who loved her. How hard it was on JoAnn, or her mother, and she also hated to think of the effect it would have on Hal. At her funeral, Hal and Molly, my daughter, were playing together in the back of the church, oblivious to the significance of the service occurring on the altar. She would've loved that, I think.
She also would've loved the scene following the service, when we went to Louse Point. Lucy had kayaked there with Sadie at sunset late last summer. She told me she knew it might be the last time she'd see that view. We all went down to the water to throw our white roses in, but the wind and tide would not cooperate, and it seemed as if she were throwing the flowers back at us. Lucy didn't want us to feel sad, or to grieve at her loss. But that was impossible, and she knew it.
My heart goes out to each of us who is mourning her absence.