Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Losing Lisa

Lisa Priano, a friend from my online parenting forum, passed away on September 25, 2007. She was 37 years old and leaves behind a husband, Greg. She had recently been declared cured of leukemia, but the final round of chemo, intended to assure her continued health, came with an unexpected toll on her lungs that eventually made them unable to absorb oxygen. After a short hospitalization and a few days in a medically induced coma, she slipped away quietly, surrounded by her family. She was preceded in death by two children, both lost in early pregnancy in the year before her cancer diagnosis.

Lis, my heart aches tonight because you will never read this. You will never post on our forum again, you will never read my essays, you will never post about how your hair is finally growing back and you're finally feeling better and maybe you and Greg will try one more time for a baby. I mourn for you, and for all you lost in the difficult months that led up to this last horrible loss.

Marcie expressed perfectly what I was thinking -- it feels so selfish, this grief that revolves around us and what we lost when we lost you. I wonder, though, when it comes down to it, isn't that what most grief is?

I grieve for Greg, who knew you inside and out and loved you so much. I am so sad that he will never see your hair (he missed it so much, your beautiful dark hair) grow out and become lush and thick, and that he will never be able to push it out of your eyes when it is heavy with sweat from the exertion of bringing his child into the world. But the truth is, I never met Greg. I wouldn't recognize him if he sat next to me at McDonald's. I mourn for him, but in truth it is only what I imagine he feels from his anguished announcement of your death.

I mourn for your parents, who raised you and loved you and watched you grow into a strong-minded and wonderful woman. My heart aches as I think of them burying their daughter. But I never met your parents. I don't know them, and my grief for them is largely what I imagine my own grief would be if I had to bury my own daughter.

I mourn for your lost opportunities, but I confess that everything I imagine is simply an extension of what I imagine I would lose. I mourn for the children you will never have (my children), the holidays you will never celebrate (my holidays), the laughter with friends that has died with you (my friends), and the hours of joyous hard work you will never again spend singing the blues with your band. It is my band that I see, since I never met your band.

It seems so selfish. But Lis, what other grief do I have? I can't share their grief, and they can't share mine -- it will mean nothing to them if they go a week without seeing the always slightly bittersweet "blues_mama2005" user ID next to a new post on the forum. This is the only grief I have, and it is all I have to give.

I mourn for the years of friendship we are denied. I regret all the days when I thought about e-mailing you, just to see how you were doing, but didn't get around to it. I am sad that you and I will never get to sit down together at a piano. I will never get to roll out a walking bass line and fill it in with rich blues chords, and hear your marvelous voice in response. I mourn for the joy I would have shared with you when you posted a picture of your funny chemo hair growing out, and the delight when you announced that you'd gotten two pink lines on your home pregnancy test (and it would have been the fourth one you'd taken that day because you just couldn't believe it was true). I am sorry I will never see your trademark ear-to-ear grin sharing our jubilant relief when 2012 rolled around and you'd reached the five-year mark in your journey away from cancer.

If it is selfish to feel my own grief, then I will be selfish and unashamed. I cry my own tears, because they are the only ones I know how to cry. My own sorrow is all I have to offer, and I offer it with all my aching heart.

I wish I could have heard you sing.


At 9/27/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brenda: Your comprehension of grief is very insightful. I remember a college professor who chastened us for having empathy instead of sympathy. Our grief and sorrow are often our own package, but I have noticed that grieving people seem to be comforted that someone else misses the person they miss. Losing alone must be the utlmate loneliness.


At 9/27/2007, Blogger Brenda said...

Mom, thanks ... I really appreciate your thoughts on that. I know it meant a lot to Rich and Peggy to hear the things that other people remembered of Nancy, and the girls on the board are going to do something similar for Greg in a few weeks, except with cards since we can't share those memories in person at the service.

Love you,

At 9/29/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brenda. Just thank you.


At 9/29/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What a beautiful eulogy for your friend.


At 9/29/2007, Anonymous Carol said...

dear brenda, you seem to have talent for saying the unsayable. I'm sorry to hear of your friend.


At 10/31/2007, Anonymous Alex said...

Brenda: As Lisa's father, I can't thank you enough for your expression of your feelings. Even though it has been a month, the numbness that losing Lisa has created is not lessening.

Thank you and God be with you.

At 11/02/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It was through a very indirect path that I found your posting. I am very touched by what you wrote, as I was touched by your cards. I never realized that you, too, are a musician. Today I had to choose a headstone for Lisa. The last in a number of agonizing decisions that one should not have to make for a 37 year old beautiful girl. Yes, girl. Lisa was a girl with her whole life ahead of her. In contradiction to the advice of some, I chose a "companion" stone with both our names. To honor Lisa and her amazing talent, I had an emblem placed under her name of a musical staff complete with treble cleff, key signature, time signature, and notes. It's in the key of G. Only people like us would know that. I hope that Lisa liked the key of G, but I know that she could sing beautifully in any key. Under my name, I had placed an emblem of an acoustic guitar. In between our names are the words, "Forever In My Heart". I bought the most expensive stone that the cemetary would allow to be placed. It's the least I could do. I want Lisa to know that I will not leave her alone for eternity, and that I will rest beside her someday.

My heart has been broken by Lisa's sudden illness and passing. I never thought it was possible to miss someone so much. Now I know why they call your spouse "your better half". Half of me died on September 25, 2007. I am sick with grief, as I know you are. As humans, we can only imagine someone else's grief: The loss of someone's spouse as YOUR spouse, the loss of someone's child as YOUR child. It's the only way we can begin to comprehend the magnitude of someone else's grief. It's OK to grieve the way you have been. It means so much to me to know that Lisa could have touched someone else so much, even though you two never actually met, or even though you never heard her sing.

Lisa would always ask me why I loved her or why I married her. Being a man, I was always at a loss for words in response. Well, last week (10/25/07), on the one month anniversary of Lisa's passing, I went down to the Outer Banks of NC and burried a collection of Lisa's items (things significant only to her and I) on a particular spot on the beach. This spot had special sigificance to us. Along with that bag of memories, I included a list of maybe 50 reasons why I loved her. I guess it was too late, but maybe she will somehow know what I wrote. At least until the next hurricane washes her things away, there will be a link between the ocean here on Earth, and Lisa in Heaven. The ocean, particularly the Outer Banks, was Lisa's favorite place.

I have tried to honor Lisa in as many ways as I can think of. It helps my sadness for awhile. Lisa was my best friend, and I miss her so much. I miss the simple things most of all. Tonight will be a cold one. We would probably build a fire in the fireplace and curl up and watch TV. No one can replace her or the place she filled in my heart.

Thank you for your kindness.

Lisa's husband,


At 11/05/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


An e-mail from Greg lead me here and I sit here bawling. I know everything you are saying because that is exactly how I too am feeling. I try to be strong and positive for Greg because I know that's what he needs. I loved Lisa so much but now the only thing I can do for her is to keep her memory strong and to help support those closest to her. But I grieve all that has been lost... I know people go through this every day and that death is a part of life... but WHY Lisa? I still feel sick.

- Leanne

At 4/10/2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11/26/2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason, Lis was on my mind today. So I came back to read your post again and realized I never commented. What you wrote is beautiful, Brenda. I consider myself lucky to have met her, to have pictures of her with myself and with my children. The one day we got to spend with her, at that mall in South Bend, IN, was not nearly enough. I miss her so much, and I wish I had not been so reserved with her during her illness. I was pregnant, and I was afraid that that fact would hurt her so I hid. I asked how she was, let her talk about the cancer and her treatment, but I always avoided the subject of my new baby. But she always asked about the pregnancy. I should have known she was a bigger person than that, that her heart was so big she had room in it for my new baby while still grieving the fact that she had lost hers and wanted a child so badly. She died before my baby was born, but I consider her his special angel. I love you, Lisa, and I miss you so much.



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