Every relationship ends.

I’ve had them end with bangs and with whimpers, with earth-scorching words and with tender mutual agreement.

Last Thursday morning, just before 6am, I had my longest-running friendship end when whatever it was that animated her slipped out of her body, quietly, without any of us – not me, not either of her parents – realizing until it was over.

I just sat down next to her, after a night of trying and failing to help her get comfortable…

…after calling the Hospice nurse who tended to her with a caring lightheartedness before beckoning me into the hall to let me know she was transitioning…

…after calling her parents and telling them to come…

…after she settled under the cooing reassurances of her dad and mom while they rubbed her back and legs…

…after her dad stepped away to fall asleep in an armchair and I got her mom settled in the bed next to her…

It was then I sat down, took her cold hand in mine, and realized I couldn’t find a pulse.

I was with both of my maternal grandparents when they transitioned. I’ve stroked the fur of numerous dogs and cats while they breathed their last breaths.

Never have I seen someone leave so quietly, with so little fanfare.

It was so very like her.


Stephen Jenkinson, longtime deathcare worker and author of Die Wise (which I’m still only halfway through), says that death ends a life, not a relationship.

And, of course, yes, he’s right. I am still in relationship with my grandparents and all those cats and dogs and also the people who are no longer active parts of my life though they live and breathe and text people who aren’t me.

I’ll be in relationship with Courtney for the rest of my life – 32 years and counting since my first solid memory of her – but I’m finding that thin solace this morning.


Courtney hated being the center of attention so I’ll honor her by not eulogizing her here. Instead, I’ll tell you one sweet, recent story.

On the morning of her death, the Hospice nurse said something about what great friends she has – and she does, a spreadsheet full of us just champing at the bit to be helpful throughout the four+ years of her life with cancer while all she wanted was to live as close to life-as-usual as she could, which she mostly did – and she got this sweet look on her face and said, “I really do.”

Later that day, when I met one of her other inner circle for a lunch-and-cry, she said she had walked in on Courtney and her cousin having a tearful conversation during a recent stint in the hospital. It seems whatever happened in that conversation really highlighted for Courtney that we don’t all have spreadsheets full of people just wishing they could do for us.

She never took us for granted, that’s not what that conversation was about.

I think it’s that she didn’t appreciate her own unique gravitational pull, how we were drawn to her sturdy, grounded realness, and how once we were in her orbit, we were pretty well disinclined to ever spin off into space again.

Right at the end, she got it. I hope it helped her see herself with more clarity and generosity.


It feels painfully trite to say “Life is short! Tell people you love them!”

But life is short. Tell people you love them.

Take a note from Courtney’s life by taking the time to really show them that you see them.

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