Debra Jane Blood was a navigator. It’s no accident that she worked in the travel industry for 20 years. She was a courageous guide; a lighthouse on the murky dark days, and a historian recording the days that shine brightest. She recognized what we needed even before most of us knew what it was. Her Facebook timeline is a veritable “how to navigate through life in the most genuine and joyful way possible.” It was a representation of how she lived, and an atlas for how to follow her. She left us a roadmap that winds it’s way around life’s struggles, and bounces happily along on life’s best moments. She knew how to traverse the struggles and dips, and glide happily through the joy, remembering each wonderful moment.
She had a knack for remembering the funniest, most poignant, and even most heart wrenching days of her life, and the people who shaped those moments. She was one of the most present people on know. She wrote a book about how to survive the sudden loss of a soulmate. She schooled us in the Herculean task of surviving the greatest losses, and finding connections to fill the void left by those losses. She never gave up seeking joy.
During the last months of her journey through the nightmare of cancer, she called me in a panic more than once. I would ask her why she felt anxious, and she would reply- “well there’s the fact that I’m dying of cancer-HAH!” And then she’d collapse in laughter that fell quickly fell into tears. It became a sort of ritual with us. She’d ask me to talk her off the edge. I’d ask her the stupid question, and she’d answer with the same snark and telltale HAH!-every time. She needed to make light of the worst thing that was happening to her. But she did it for me as much as for her.
Early on she gave Chris and I our BFF duties. Chris was her emotional touchstone. They shared a friendship that spanned decades and she felt most comfortable letting Chris see her at her most vulnerable. She and Chris shared a history that allowed them every emotion, and they shared them easily. My job was to be the voice of reason. Whenever she reminded me of her cancer panic, it was my job to bring her back to the present moment, and remind her to take this illness one day, and sometimes one moment, at a time. During the last months of her illness, she briefly lost her touchstone on the present. She was laser focused on the future. But she wasn’t really worried about her future. She was worried about everyone else she loved. She was literally having the most selfless panic attack I’ve ever seen. At the heart of her anxiety was something beyond her fear of dying too soon, and missing out on so many things she shouldn’t have to miss. She was worried about everyone she was leaving behind. She had so much more to say and do. She had ALOT more living to share with us all.
Debra had many many friends who loved her dearly. Every conversation we had involved each of those people. She was trying to keep the stories going, and felt a need
to tell me stories about these people who shared her journey through life. I think she needed reassurance that those people would be ok and they would remember her in the same way she remembered them. This was text book Debra Jane-selfless during a time when the situation demands selfish. She was an existential rebel.
Even when we spoke about her desired funeral plans, she thought about everyone else. She wanted to provide a little personal note for each loved one in attendance. She wanted to give each of us something to smile about. I jokingly told her that mine would say “I blame Obama” – a private joke to be shared with me, her bleeding heart liberal snowflake friend. Deb and I had polar opposite ideologies. But we always found a way to bring levity to our most intense debates. That was how she rolled- she could find laughter in the face of anger, disappointment, and even deep sadness. It wasn’t because she lacked depth or empathy- quite the opposite. She just couldn’t t stand to see people suffer in any way.
On her darkest, most painful and panicked days, she thought about how her family would cope. She worried about her friends. She wanted them all to know how much she loved them, and felt an ever increasing rush to convey her love before she left us.
So if you’re out there wishing you’d had more time with her, and feel robbed of those precious last moments, please know that she envisioned those moments with each of you. She tried to hang on to make them all possible. She sobbed on those days when she felt it was an impossible task. She didn’t wanna die without being able to find closure with every single soul blessed with a funny, quirky, epic, joyful, love-filled Debra Jane story to tell. She didn’t wanna leave without letting us all know we hold a special place in her heart, and an important part of the story of her life. She wanted us to know she was taking us all with her. And I reminded her each and every time she cried those hopeless tears, that she would be remembered a thousand times over by all the people she touched with her own brand of DebJane spirit and pure joy for life.
We will take her with us down ever road of our remaining journey here. She left us a darn good roadmap. And in her own way she has taken our hands in a way that will sustain us til we meet again.