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Rachel Eunice Ostrom Lindahl took her last breath on 5 March, 2014. Not unexpected, yet still a jolt – – and continues to be. A sweet part of my life is missing. I’m re-posting this in honor of her.

199901_1006926894756_3886_nThis is Rachel and me. Rachel is the mother of my best friend, Laurel, and I’ve known her my entire life, since I was about one year old. She’s my other mother and is as important to me as any of my own family members. She’s my friend. Rachel is quiet and shy. She’s sensitive, loving, sweet. And she loves to laugh! Especially with (at) Laurel and me!

Laurel and I have been friends forever and have our own quirky humor and, after so many years together, a unique energy flows between us. In fact, Laurel’s family mostly rolls their eyes at us when we get going with our little tricks that make us (and Rachel) laugh. We’re like sister twins that have developed our own language and that language always includes quick-witted comments and hilarity. But my relationship with Laurel is another story. This is about Rachel.

About one year ago Rachel began feeling unsteady on her feet and developed a slight shake. After lots of doctoring and medications, she’s got a diagnosis and is learning to adapt to the fact that she requires 24-hour care. But I’m not writing this to discuss her symptoms or her diagnosis. I’m writing about Rachel and what she means to me and what it’s like to see someone you love struggle with pain and lack of mobility.

Rachel is tall and statuesque. She has a beautiful smile and sparkling blue eyes. You notice her in a room and you’re drawn to her sweet countenance. She’s beautiful. She’s naive in a way, believing in the best parts of people always; accepting us how we are. She loves unconditionally. She’s sentimental. She feels pain deeply and carries it with her: The loss of her dear twin sister, Joan. The eventual dissolution of her marriage. The loss first of her father, then her mother. And now the sudden failing of her body.

“It’s hard,” she sometimes says. And we know it’s true. We know how hard it is for this active and graceful woman to be confined to her uncooperative body. And we all suffer in our own way for her, for her loss, for her sadness. For our loss, our sadness.

But here’s the thing that buoys me: Rachel is still tall and statuesque. She still exudes sweetness and shyness and beauty and joy. She laughs. She’s still herself. There’s still time for me to let her know how deep my love is for her; what she’s done for me in life.

She represents to me love and acceptance and joy. Unfailing. She’s always curious about my life. She enjoys hearing what’s going on with me. She loves listening to me talk and laugh. She wants me around. She loves me. She loves me now and she has always loved me. She knows me!

And the best part of it all is that I still have time to let her know how important she is to me. I can still put puzzles together with her, I can still talk with her, and I can still laugh with her.

The other day we were all joking about how I didn’t want to get up from puzzling to go to the bathroom. I asked Rachel if she would “go” for me so that I wouldn’t have to get up. A silly conversation, but we all laughed. But then she looked straight at me with her beautiful blue eyes and said I could sit on her lap in her wheelchair and she would wheel me in there if I needed her to. I laughed. But she was serious and she said, “Because I would do that for you Janie. I would do anything for you.” I stopped laughing and looked back at her and said, “I know you would do that for me, Rachel. I know you would.” And it felt so good to know that she would; to know that this woman loves me and would do anything for me. And I would do the same for her.