Today, as we sit back and reflect on what happened 17 years ago, I look back and think of where I was and what I was doing. I was two days away from my 35th birthday, on vacation, and sitting in front of my computer, as I am now. I was chatting with my “girlfriend” at the time on MSN Messenger, had either CNN or GMA on the tube. I remember looking over at the TV and seeing smoke billowing from one of the twin towers. I remember posting to Barb “Are you watching this?” and she saying “watching what?” I told her to turn on the TV, a plane has crashed into one of the towers at the WTC. I remember her saying “OMG” and at that point I moved away from the computer and for the rest of that week, I spent it in front of the TV, watching the aftermath and reactions to what had happened. It is a time I will never forget, and as I look back on that time I look at how far we have come, and a a lot of what has happened since is sad, yet a lot of what has happened has allowed me to forge precious friendships that I will never forget and will honor the rest of my life.
One such friendship that has meant the most to me was of a women I met in a chatroom nearly 20 years ago. Rhonda Merrill was a 30 year-old Indianapolis Colts fan that I met in an MSN Chatroom and I remember thinking that she was a little bit dizzy, yet behind that “typical blonde” persona was a warm, caring, beautiful person who was passionate not only about her chosen football team, but passionate with her friendships. I found I could confide in her, joke around with her, and eventually trust her and love her like a baby sister. Over the years I became protective of her, defended her from personal attacks, and looked to her for advice, for counsel, and when I needed to be lifted out of depression. Rhonda became my closest friend, and I knew I could always count on her to be there for me when I needed her, and she could always count on me to be there for her when she needed me.
Rhonda experienced a lot of tragedy in her life, losing her mother and sister to a car accident, an accident in which Rhonda was a passenger. She experienced a life of medical issues due to the accident, details of which I will not reveal, but know that she suffered physically for the majority of her life. She lost her dad a few years ago, something I don’t think she ever recovered from, and yet, she moved on, remaining positive and being a happy person, enlightening me in the process. She eventually lost her brother, but not to death, just as a part of her life. she never told me the specifics around what happened, but I could tell that it hurt her to her core. We went into business together (online of course) and for a while it was like we were back in MSN Chat all over again and that we would be successful together and become rich and famous (HA!!) eventually I lost interest and moved on to trying to be successful in the real world, after all I had bills to pay.
The following few years we become distant, life got in the way and It seemed like I had taken our friendship for granted. We spoke for the first time in years about three years ago and it was then she revealed to me that she had ovarian cancer. I was heartbroken, and I didn’t know how to take it. She seemed optimistic and assured me that she was going to fight this and win. I believed her, after all, this was a woman that I had admired for over a decade, respected her for her intelligence, her warmth, and her need to put others feelings and needs above her own. She had become a somewhat successful graphic artist, doing things with photoshop that I could only dream of. Life moved on again and it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that we reconnected, both of us apologizing to the other for not keeping in contact. She told me that she was still in treatment and despite the fact that her health was still and issue, it was like time had never passed us by, and we picked up right where we left off. It was comforting to have her back in my life and I felt whole again.
A few weeks went by, and she called me to tell me that the cancer had now spread to her brain. I was devastated, and I feared the loss of my dear friend would be the punishment of not staying in contact with her, the guilt was overwhelming, and I didn’t know if I could bear it. She told me she was scared, and through the tears that were forming in my eyes I told her that it would be ok, and that I was here for her whenever she needed me, no matter the day, the time ore the reason. Told her to pick up the phone and call me. We talked a few times over the course of the following weeks and then I get a call from Bob, her boyfriend/fiancé a couple of weeks ago telling me that she was now in Hospice and that they are only giving her a few months at the most. My heart rose to my throat and I realized that I was losing her. This past weekend, shortly after 6pm eastern Rhonda passed away. She was 47. I have lost a close friend, a baby sister, and a woman I have admired for nearly 20 years. She didn’t deserve this, and the anger I feel towards a God that would allow one of his children to go through all of the heartache she has endured her entire life to end up suffering to a painful and debilitating disease is immeasurable.. It just isn’t fair…
I have a lot of anger towards this entire situation, and that is for me to work through and get over. I am not much for placing a “message” in my posts… but for those of you that read this.. embrace and treasure your friendships, because you just never know when they will be gone.
Goodbye Rho.. I miss you… I love you.. and I hope to see you again…
The Sports Nerd