Tragic, untimely, unfair… yet elegant and full of love and grace. That’s my perception of Carolyn Top‘s passing, two years ago on November 18 in Groningen, The Netherlands. For someone I’ve never met, I felt such a closeness and attachment to her.
She found me through Vox, a now defunct blogging platform (from which I sadly didn’t transfer our PM’s), and we became quick friends. We both had Stage IV lung cancer, and followed similar treatment paths for awhile. We had much in common, but more than that, Carolyn’s lust for life was boundless and infectious. She was diagnosed at 29 and burned the candle of life at both ends for 3 years. She was married shortly after diagnosis, and was blessed with a husband who had the rare capacity to truly understand how short her life might be, how fraught with the trials of treatment and anguish, how every day was a bucket list day. The pace of activity and travel she maintained was astounding, and her husband had the wisdom to film many glorious times. She was an active advocate in the lung cancer community in The Netherlands, and posted succinct and precise accounts of her daily life. There is such sweetness and lightness in her voice…
I continue to feel robbed, an unfortunate experience that repeats itself, and from which I don’t shy away. The sorrow of making what would be a life-long friendship and losing that person so soon is worth the beauty of the time we have. I don’t believe epistolary relationships are less valuable than ones with personal engagement. There’s a different intensity to friendships played out in correspondence, as many authors’ letters would suggest. Friendships borne out of hardship exhibit very little invention – it’s all longing and hope, dreams, sorrow, shared anguish and joy at small triumphs. As time passes, the hurt and sadness never really dull, the desire for more time lingers.
Love to you, sweet Carolyn.