I received an email today letting me know that a member of my writers' group had passed away last night. I was stunned beyond words.
Shirley Phillips had been battling cancer for some time, but every time I saw her, she seemed to be doing so well. She was always smiling, never down. A few months ago she had sent an email letting me know she wouldn't be at the meetings due to health problems. I let her know I was here if she needed me, and asked if all was OK, but she never answered that question. She was like that, at least with me. Private. Not really going on about her health or illness.
When I think of Shirley, I don't immediately think of the cancer she fought. I think of the stories she brought to our group meetings; stories taken from events in her life that never failed to make us laugh. I also think of her artwork, which she exhibited at a local gallery alongside her husband's woodworking pieces. And maybe that's what she wanted people to remember most. Not the cancer, but how she touched our lives with her writing and her art.
I don't know which she liked to do the most, painting or writing. I do know that I always wished I had her dual talent and her seeming perpetual happiness and joy in life. I also know that I am a better person for having known her, and one of my biggest sorrows is that our newest members did not get to meet her or hear her work.
I think I have copies of some of her stories filed away. I am going to look for them and introduce our new members to Shirley at our next meeting. They should get a chance to meet her.
Shirley was 75, and taken away much too soon.