I couldn’t put my finger on it…what it was about that tree. There’s many palm trees in my apartment complex but that tree is special. I couldn’t determine how the lightning striking it had any impact on me at all but it did. I wasn’t even there to witness the event. I had been on vacation to see family and friends.
But then again, I also missed my friend’s passing. I couldn’t be there to hold her hand or comfort her. I missed her last breath. There’s a part of me that can hear her telling me that’s what she wanted…to not be a bother to anyone, to not let anyone be sad and of course, she still had her pride and didn’t want anyone to see her at her weakest. I’ve been told it’s better I wasn’t there but that’s not what my heart tells me. I made a promise and I couldn’t fulfill it, but it’s no one’s fault either. Life, even when it’s slipping away, doesn’t play by our rules or our promises. It has its own promises to keep.
For some reason, I was thinking about the tree again. And then it struck me…like the lightning that struck the tree. It seemed to make perfect sense.
The palm tree that’s caddy corner my apartment, that used to be my friend’s apartment, already had an established history. A mutual friend of ours insisted it had claimed the toy he bought for his daughter for her birthday, though it was never seen again. Then one night she and I saw it…or at least we think we did.
She and I and another mutual friend of ours were enjoying the patio and good conversation when I noticed my friend looking up at the tree. I looked up and saw these flashing green lights and we immediately compared notes. My friend said it looked just like the toy Mark insisted had been in that tree but was never found…the lights flickered the same way, it even looked like it was spinning like the toy had. She was relieved to know I had also seen it…it made us both feel a little less crazy.
The toy was never found. Even once the palm trees had been trimmed, it was clear the toy wasn’t up there in the palms. While a reasonable explanation is most likely, she and I couldn’t help but feel perhaps it was Mark telling her he was there for her, watching over her through her struggle with cancer; that he was waiting for her and would comfort her. Perhaps not, but it was nice to believe.
I knew things were not going well. Staying in the hospital for a month is never a good sign, neither is kidney failure. I hoped more than expected that my friend would make it until I returned from vacation. I wanted to be sure to say ‘goodbye’ but it was not to be. I couldn’t and still can’t get over what a short time I knew such a beautiful heart and soul. She was my lightning strike.
The actual lightning strike took place after her passing. Again, it’s most likely pure coincidence but why that tree? Why at that time? My dear friend came into my life quickly and left almost as quickly. But like the lightning strike, she’s left her mark.
A mutual friend of ours explained to me what he experienced when the lightning struck that night. His entire apartment lit up and the building shook. The tree was on fire and apparently didn’t want to go out at first. Firefighters had to put in some effort to get it extinguished. The tree remains…charred at the top, a permanent reminder of the strike.
Such symbols for my friend! Her light was incandescent. She brought joy to so many and she loved to smile. She didn’t go down without a fight. She wasn’t willing to let cancer get the better of her. The mark she left on us, on me, is one that will last a lifetime.
They say lightning never strikes in the same place twice. Perhaps not, but I’m glad it happened once!