Every August, for the past several years, I get an unexpected wave of sadness. Then I remember that my friend, Gina died in the month of August. I can’t even remember how long ago; it must have been at least 15 years. Gina was just a beautiful person and friend. I met her in graduate school. I was in the clinical psychology program and she was in the counseling psychology program, which was housed in Education rather than in Arts & Sciences. We met through our mutual friends, Annette and Ellen, who are also now counseling psychologists. Gina had just returned from her clinical internship to finish her dissertation, her remaining Ph.D. requirement. She was also recently divorced.

Gina was so fun and such a kind-hearted person. After she graduated, she ended up taking a job at Duke University in onco-psychology. Yes, she worked with cancer patients. Gina used to talk about how happy John and I were together. “Elizabeth laughs when John tells stories you know that she’s heard a hundred times.” She and Annette were quite taken with John and referred to him as being the “most marriageable man” that they knew. Not that they thought he was available; they just thought he was well suited to marriage and were looking for someone like him. (And believe me, this is not the first time my girlfriends have talked about my husband this way to the point when my friend, Cheryl would even say, “I’ve got to get myself a computer nerd.” It was just fine.)

I suspect even more than being re-married, Gina wanted to be a mother. She eventually did marry her husband, Bob. We flew back to North Carolina for the wedding reception and John was the official photographer at the small family-only service at Coker Arboretum on the UNC campus. He took some really beautiful shots.

Gina did have a baby, a beautiful boy. We were so happy for her. A few months later, Annette called and I answered. “Gina died.” She’d had an brain aneurism and died while her husband was driving her to the hospital. There’s a boy in North Carolina who only knows the mother who waited for and wanted him so much through a video that Annette made. When she found out that Bob and Gina didn’t have a camcorder, she borrowed one and took footage.

I was wondering today why I was feeling her death again like the day Annette called. I looked down at my calendar. In fact I feel sadder than I have felt in many years. Today is August 8th. Today is the anniversary of my mastectomy. Today is a reminder of what I have lost and the greatest losses were not of my breast or my femininity, or my sense of self.

The loss I feel today is the loss of the ability to take for granted that I will be able to be alive for as long as my daughter needs me.

I have learned to be happy, to be appreciative, to have abundant and overwhelming joy in my life. But some days are just sad and that’s as it should be. In our sympathy card, I wrote to Bob, “So many words describe what Gina meant to us. No words describe our grief in losing her.”

Tomorrow is a new day. But today is the one I have right now.

There are no words.