In mid-September, my friend Simona died. When I first found out, I burst into tears. My kids were shocked at my sudden waterworks. “Mommy what’s wrong?” they asked. “My friend, she died. She died of breast cancer.”
My second emotion was anger, “FUCK YOU CANCER! Fuck you to hell and back again. How dare you take my friend?”
I miss my friend, I miss her dearly. I first met Simona through the local babywearing group I do in Ottawa. She came in with her eldest all the way back in 2012. It’s funny, eh, how some memories stick in your head so much? Back then the meetings were held in the basement of a local store, she had a Beco Gemini, one of their first front facing models. But it wasn’t all that comfortable for her anymore, and so we did the scarf hack to take the weight off her shoulders, tightened the straps and she felt immediate relief. She came to a few more meetings, including a walk where we tackled breastfeeding in a carrier. She felt it was the most amazing thing in the world, like I had solved the mystery of black holes for her. Simona just was the type of person who would make you feel like you were amazing and valuable.
We lost touch for a bit, then when she became pregnant with her second son, we started to connect again. When I filed my trademark, she was my biggest supporter. Completely understood why I was pouring so much time and energy into it despite the impracticalities of managing a business, working part-time, and being newly divorced. When I held a marriage funeral, she couldn’t come and since I knit, I had asked people to bring a small bit of yarn that I could use to make something up. So she stored a bag of yarn at her place for ages. Just so she could contribute something to the celebrations and mourning of the passing of my old life.
And then we slowly became friends, meeting up over lunch every few months. When I had to sell carriers to fund the filing of my intellectual property, she bought a baby carrier from me. A Zidee modern-style narrow blanket podaegi, super comfy whale cord straps with a gorgeous Marimekko print panel. She loved that thing to death, it enabled her to master her first back carry with her kidlets, she would show it off to all and sundry and never understood why this style of carrier never took off.
She is an intelligent woman, a fantastic researcher, she could and did frequently worry a problem to death until she had it solved. She hunted down every bit of work I’d done. When she saw all the work and all the pictures I had loaded onto Flickr, she understood why I was continuing and would message me regularly. Funny things. Sweet things. Hilarious things. Things to keep me going. She christened me as part of the tribe of vase tossers, people who talk so much with their hands and arms, things go flying. We could be loud, funny, anxious, and everything together. We were both so busy, we only managed to get together roughly every 3-4 months or so, but when we did, we’d lose track of time like no one’s business. And we would send funny comments and stories back and forth to each other all the time.
The joking would move from FB chats, text messages, emails back and forth at work. And then even morph into real life lasting things. I didn’t know Hanukkah sweaters were even a thing. When I originally learned of them from Simona, it was a lot of fun to realize other religions did this too. Since she loved them so much, we sent some of the funniest ones back and forth to each other by email. It was a blast. I ended up buying her one last year over the holidays.
One of the reasons my first conference took place was because of the work she did, she volunteered for me using her skills as a marketing and communications specialist. She did this often for people she believed in, working numerous years for PuppetsUp, a festival that used to take place in a small town called Almonte. She helped set up my Pinterest account (which I suck at maintaining), did the communications strategy for my first conference, set up this whole thing on twitter, which to my shame I do not use. I can’t stand twitter, sorry Simona. She believed in me, oftentimes more than I do myself. When she gave you her support, she gave you a hundred percent of it. She is my biggest cheerleader. The day of my first conference, I remember some of it and also none of it. I was so nervous, Simona was able to come for most of the day with Phin. She knew once I had a baby or mom in front of me, I’d get into my groove and I’d calm right on down. So suddenly she’s right in front of me, pops Phin into my arms, grabs the carrier that was the giveaway and said here. Take him. And walked away and sat down in the audience. Worked like a charm. She not only knows people, she could sometimes parse down exactly what they need to get them to the next step.
(I will also here admit that I am to blame for the fact that he then played with everyone’s hair for a good loooong time after the conference was over. I frequently wore my hair in a single braid and would let the kids play with it all the time. Babies and toddlers like how the tip feels, much like a paint brush against the skin. Hehe, oops. My bad.)
Simona found the lump one month before birthing her daughter. The doctors didn’t take it too seriously at first because she was undergoing a host of treatments for other health issues and to have it identified as something separate took time. One thing I will impress on any of you. Do not take no for an answer if you think you’ve found a lump.
About Simona herself, one of her favourite things included drag queens. I know absolutely nothing about this world, at all. I would watch for hours as she skip hopped from one site to another, talking about which one she met, who was the best singer, which wigs she preferred, who was the best dancer, you name it. It was discussed. We even had a blast when she found some drag queens who looked like people I had to deal with on a regular basis in babywearing. One of my regrets is having lost messages when I switched phones because the resemblances she found were pretty awesome. Simona changed her blog to help update people on her breast cancer battle. I highly recommend reading it, it will touch you. It will make you laugh and cry. Grab your tissues.
In April, she sent me this message. When you have a skill, your friend sends you this… well, as you can imagine, the pain in these words was unacceptable to me. I was over to her place as soon as I could.
I did find a carrying solution for her. I think medical professionals who don’t understand the needs of parents with three children are beyond absurd. They are utterly foolish to say, “Don’t pick up your child.”
A parent will ALWAYS pick up their child if they are in distress and they are the only adult around. Where do these medical professionals reside? On the moon? So I provided a solution. A Hippy Chick seat. There is more often that not, always a way to let you hold your child for short periods.
During this visit, I got to see pictures of her trips and her favourite acts again. We chatted dating, we talked about love, children, wishes and dreams. I got to see her baby daughter Naomi, chat with Jonah, saw the boys. Her baby who is now just over a year old. She sent me home with a ton of food. Always generous, Simona was. I came home full of wild ideas and made concept sketches and a mini-demo video on a carrier model that could be used to carry only using one side of the body, with limited oppositional forces. Because damned if we can’t figure out how to carry while avoiding any pressure on one side of the body. And one day, I will. One day.
Something that started off as me being there, available for any parent who needed me with my services, blossomed into friendship. I walked around in shock for a good week when I learned of her death – I owe a huge thank you to my boss for understanding my mistakes during this period of time. I will tell you, losing a friend is one of the most terrible feelings in the world. It shouldn’t happen, a mother shouldn’t leave her three children, leave this earth with so many things left undone. Except it happens far more often than it should. There are far too many families who lose their loved ones to cancer.
My head is officially played. I love you Simona. You are the smartest, the best person ever, a wicked awesome parent and so much more.