I was 7 years old when I first met Darlene. She was a counselor at the Salvation Army summer camp where my parents were Directors. She and my parents developed a friendship at that time that lasted their lifetimes, but to me, she was just Darlene Strawn, Extraordinaire. A few years later, my family and I moved from California, and those summers at Camp Redwood Glen, and with just a few exceptions I didn't see Darlene again until almost 3 years ago. But her name was mentioned many times in our family throughout the years in an effort to stay in touch and follow her adventures and we never spoke of her without smiling and recalling with fondness those days at camp and all she was now doing.
And then, a few years ago, Darlene came for a visit and while here, shared that she was experiencing cancer and that in an effort to receive the most effective and aggressive treatment, she wanted to check out a few different treatment centers in Portland. After spending a couple months here, the decision was made to make the move and eventually both her daughters Carol and Janet relocated from southern California to be with her here. It worked out perfectly that for the first couple months Darlene was in Oregon she was able to stay with me. Even though years had passed, nothing had changed the deep sense of love and affection shared between Darlene, my mother and me. She began each day early meditating in prayer and reading, and finished the day doing the same. Her faith was strong and never faltered for a moment. She encouraged me to rethink disappointment, to think outside the box, to assess that which was really important and to be optimistic. She did all this and more, with an ever present, radiant, gentle smile.
Earlier this summer we had an opportunity to travel to the Gorge for lunch. It was a beautiful day and she, her daughter, Janet, and I soaked up every beautiful view, and enjoyed every minute of the time and visit. Our lunches, visits with friends, times alone together, her bright smile, her loving and encouraging spirit and Darlene's beautiful, graceful, statuesque figure at almost 6 feet tall will be a permanent memory for the rest of my life. Thank you, Darlene, for being my friend and loving me.
Between the time I wrote this blog and the time it is scheduled to publish on Monday morning, Darlene has passed away. She did so in the company of her loving daughters, Carol and Janet, at home where she has been in their care and with the help of hospice. They were faithful and ever present and now, as Darlene continues on her journey, I know her spirit of loving, giving, caring and seeing the best in every situation, will continue to emulate through the lives of her daughters. Darlene has left a world of friends who have grown to cherish and revel in her friendship, her enthusiastic love of life, and her faithfulness. I, and many, many others, say, "Thank you, my sweet friend."
I am standing by the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch
until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sun and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says, 'There she goes!
Gone where? Gone from my sight - that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the places of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
'There she goes! ' ,
there are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout :
'Here she comes!'