(Beth voice-recorded this series of stories for Olivia when she was hospitalized with Covid in September, 2021.)
Two people were once crazy in love with me. Did I tell you this?
They both sent enormous floral arrangements to me at my office on the same day.
The man was the one you saw water skiing in the picture book.
But the woman, Linda Faye, had been my snowboard instructor in Telluride. She sent a floral arrangement that was completely over the top – over four feet tall. She was good friends with Martina Navratilova and was a caretaker for her ranch in Colorado. She had come out to visit me here, and we went for rides on my motorcycle at night.
Linda Faye died of ovarian cancer about 10 years ago.
When they sedated me earlier, I heard her laughing.
I looked over and saw her on the chairlift next to me.
I know if this goes south there’s a good friend waiting for me there.
Shortly after my second husband walked out, when I was still living in DC I got Raille, a tiny black and white kitten who fit in my palm.
She was just seven weeks old and followed me around the house. She didn’t exactly meow; it was more like a croak-squeak - very cute.
I was devastated that he had left but she slept on my face at night - all kitten-smelly, and I drenched her in my tears.
I am so glad I went through that because it showed me that I could survive any heartbreak.
Raille never ever once left the apartment -- even when the window was open. She would sit on the sill and watch for me coming home from work, grad school, yoga classes, Chinese lessons.
Then one night I went to a clogging event (kind of like square dancing).
I remember I was wearing this crop top and a skirt that I loved. I met this boy Mickey and we danced together. He was very tall and angular and had a very expressive face. He had a big beautiful smile, nice skin, and long eyelashes. Every time we were set to pick partners somehow he was always right there. We could do this one dance step that involved putting your arm around each other’s waist and looking into each other’s eyes while you circled each other very closely. Mickey’s fingers were so gentle but sure on my waist. Every single time I got this little jolt of ooh! We get to do that circle eyes thing again!
Anyway, it was kind of a magical evening, and I came home feeling like I was going to be okay after all.
That night, for the first time I didn’t drench Raille with my tears.
The next morning when I woke up she was on the window sill, just quietly looking at me. She was 10 months old and she hopped out of the window. I thought, well that’s new.
A few minutes later I suddenly had this dull sense of dread, and I jumped out of bed.
I looked down in the street, and she was lying there very small and still below my apartment. I ran outside and gathered her small warm body in my hands. She looked up at me as I sobbed and wailed over her.
I think she was telling me, “Okay then, you got this now, kid. Bye for now.” And then she died.
There was no blood.
She was one of my angels. She arrived to get me through that, and then she left to go and help someone who needed her angel-kitteny-smell on their wet face. I think Raille and Linda Faye are snuggled up next to the fire at a chalet waiting for me. She is purr-croak-squeaking very wisely.
Please don’t worry that I’m only thinking about death. My angels just come close to the veil, and I can see them when I’m scared or struggling. They reassure me.
When I was very sick in 2012 and vomiting bile and feeling like I could not do chemotherapy anymore I was lying in bed one night. I had a powerful sense of several luminous beings hovering above me, telling me over and over that I was deeply deeply loved.
Since that night I have felt even more peace and calm about what awaits us on the other side, and I am certain that they have become protective of you as well.
Do you remember that heavy rainstorm very late at night on the highway? You weren’t wearing your contacts and a huge semi truck drove alongside us way way too close. Our angels picked up our car and moved it over just enough to keep us safe. They were saying, “Oh no, it’s not yet her time. This one is going to do some truly remarkable things.”
They will be ready to shepherd me across the veil when it’s my time, and then I will join them. We will all be YOUR angels ready to intervene when you need help.
About the Author
Diagnosed at age 38, Elizabeth Castronovo lived with cancer for 22 years. With a loving community of family and friends, and through many tears, much laughter, and the solace of writing, she clung to the thread of sanity through pain that would have crippled most of us. She maintained a daily sense of awe by taking long walks around the lake with her dog.
I miss her every day.