I am told that when we were both six, we were on the blocks at a swim meet. And that the starter's gun sounded, and everyone dove in. But my goggles were funny, and I was trying to fix them, lest water cloud my vision.
And I am told that you waited.
That even though it was a bigger race (Pleasant Hill Dolfins versus Walnut Creek Swim Club) than we could imagine, you waited. And I am told that even when they yelled GO DEVON GO, you looked them squarely in their eyes and explained "I'm waiting for Chelsey to fix her goggles." And that then, once everyone was nearly across the pool, I was ready and you saw that I was ready, and that together, we dove into the water and swam. Presumably, we came in last. And presumably, our come-in-last scores did not help the Pleasant Hill Dolfins-Walnut Creek Swim Club rivalry. But presumably, you didn't care. Because decades later, after leading the Dolfins to victory again and again, you went on to coach Walnut Creek Swim Club, because that was what was best for you daughter.
I do not remember this goggle-fiddling story. My parents told it to me. But I can feel it's truth. Because in it, I can feel you, Devon. It feels exactly like something 6 year old you would have done. It is what six year old you did.
You didn't care, Devon, about winning. You didn't care about rivalries. You didn't care about what other people thought. In 1989, you cared about waiting for your little friend to dive off the blocks with you. In 2017, you cared about your daughter having a positive, hopeful, sweet swimming experience. You cared about friends. You cared about feelings. You cared about being a positive presence in the world.
You became the best friend of my best friend, Rebecca. She loves you so. And when I reconnected with her, I reocnnected with you, too. I am so grateful for you both.
You were diagnosed after me, Devon. First, I was diagnosed with cancer and first, you reached out. You told me you loved me, and I didn't respond because I was afraid. But I did keep writing my cancer blog, and you read every blog, and you kept telling me you loved me. Because that's how you were. And I heard you, even if I didn't know what to say.
And then you were diagnosed. And then it was my turn to reach out. When you started chemo, I sent you a box full of wigs- purple and pink and red and brunette and bleach-blond with roots. This was a box of wigs that I'd already shared with others, but you were the first to wear, as I had, all of the wigs. I was nervous to send that box to you, but of course you welcomed it with open arms, and you breathed new life into it.You were the first to add more wigs to the collection and to add hats to the box. How I cherished the photos of you in the pink and purple aqua wigs that I'd loved so.
You stuck a little notebook into the wig box, and on the front of it you wrote "The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Wigs." Inside of it, you wrote some of your own stories. You wanted other young women going through cancer to get this book, and to read your stories. You didn't care who they were: you wanted them to know they were not alone. And for that, I am grateful. Other young women have read your words, and responded to the questions you posed. You yourself, needed that box of wigs again, and you added more stories, reflecting on your own and writing back to people you'd never met. That box will live on, Devon. A young woman desperate to have a child has it right now, and she's told me about the stories she read about you and Amelia, in the Sisterhood Notebook that you created. Your words, your thoughtfulness, your love for other young women with cancer lives on in that notebook, and in the Sisterhood of The Traveling Wigs.
We talked many times, of young adult cancer. We sipped tea and wine and lattes, and you offered hand me downs and leggings, and we wondered about how to solve the total mindf*ck that is young adult cancer. We had a hundred ideas, but we never did anything about them, maybe because we so easily slipped into talk about the swim team days, about the swim team drama, about the many friends we grew up with. You knew everyone, Devon, and you updated me on people who I hadn't seen in ages.
In your simplicity, you were totally brilliant and kind and full of light. I hate that what reconnected us was cancer; and I am intensely grateful that we got reconnected.
All my love, sweet Devon. I promise I will take care of Rebecca. And I know she- and your family- will take care of your beloveds Amelia and John.
Love you always,
Chelsey is a digital storyteller, geek, mama, researcher and yogi. She loves to make things and her favorite food is artichokes.