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It's a Sad, Sad Day.

At 6:45 am, I received a horrible email letting me know that an old friend - someone who was like family to me, passed away on Friday 22nd at 12:30am. This news immediately made me sick to my stomach, sent chills down my spine and made my heart ache.

You see, 17 years ago I moved to Hawaii after growing up in IL all my life. My newly acquired step-dad was in the Navy and had been transferred there. As soon as we stepped off the plane there was this group of ladies waiting for us with a sign bearing our last name. I thought for sure they had the wrong group, but as it turned out they were all wives of Navy Submariners assigned to the same sub my step-dad was going to. Immediately Rhonda become like a sister to me - I was only 17, she in her 30's near my own sister's age. She fit perfectly as friends for both myself and my mother. We often spent weekends at a bar on base - playing pool, knocking back test-tube shots (even though I was under-age) and listening to them all sing karaoke. 16 years ago when I was 18 I was in the hospital delivery room when she gave birth to her daughter. At the time I thought it would be the best form of birth control known to man, but instead after watching all the screaming, cursing, intense pain of natural child-birth - I saw this little baby girl that just seemed to make it all worth it. I often watched her kids. We were so close that even her 5 year old boy served as the ring bearer to my first marriage. But shortly after the wedding we ended up moving to IL and I lost touch. After I left, my sister had moved to HI to start a new life, and they wound up becoming very good friends.

After my first marriage failed, I moved to NV to live with my parents who moved there once my step-dad retired. Somewhere during that time R&D left HI and headed to the east coast. My sister and I often tried to re-gain touch with our long lost friend, when one day my sister hit the jackpot. It was shortly after that, about 11 years ago that my sister had emailed me and told me about the horrifying accident they had been in. They were lucky to be alive. The kids (now 3 of them) all walked away with very minor injuries. Her husband had some broken bones, but was otherwise okay. She suffered the worst, as the car t-boned them where she had been sitting. She didn't walk away from the accident, she wheeled. The accident left her paralyzed from the arms down. Because of her injury there was no way she'd ever walk again. But despite it all she remained so upbeat and positive. All she cared about was the fact that her kids were okay.

Over the years we managed to stay in touch as they moved further up the east coast, then to Reno - and as I moved from Vegas, to Elko. We missed each other in Northern Nevada, as shortly after my move there I was diagnosed with cancer and had spent most of my time in Vegas for treatment or recovering from various surgeries. She was no stranger to surgeries either. The accident had left her with many complications often needing hospital stays or surgery. Those 400 miles that separated us, may have kept us from seeing each other - but we were still close in heart. Then 2 years ago after my mother passed away, we moved to New Orleans - and I knew my chances of ever seeing her again became slim to none. She couldn't fly because of her condition, and for me life just always got in the way.

Last year she finally gotten approval to have gastric by-pass done. Being in a chair meant she could not exercise, and well, we just all can't be stick thin. Because of a shitty deal with the whole accident, she was mostly left with no-one but her own family to care for her - meaning her hubby had to get her in and out of that chair day in and day out. Not only would weight loss surgery be useful to him, but it would also help relieve many complications of her condition - such as bed-sores. She was very excited about the whole thing and was off to a great start.

Slowly I started hearing less and less from her. I often wondered if she had been experiencing more complications or if it were money problems that kept her from sending her positive, upbeat emails that she would often send. Many times I meant to call, but earlier this year my breast cancer returned and I underwent more surgeries, then daily radiation. Also the 2 hour time difference didn't help matters much. I deeply regret not finding the time to call and check on her. I may not have been able to provide any financial support, but I know from my personal experience with cancer, that a friendly ear is often the best form of therapy there is. I should have been there for her. I know that it probably wouldn't have changed the outcome, but at least I would have peace of mind knowing that she was not alone - that I did what I could, and that I had been there for her. But for the moment, like her, I will focus on the positive.

What I remember most about Rhonda was that she was a believer. She was positive and upbeat, even in the darkest days. When life handed her lemons, she made lemonade. She was funny, and thoughtful and kind. She had an infectious laughter about her, and she was a great person to know and to be around. I know for one, that I will miss her, as will her family.

Rest in peace Rhonda. You will be missed. On your way up, please tell my mom that I love and miss her.

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