“Getting old is a gift,” declares Danny DeVito towards the end of Jumanji: The Next Level. Until that point, his cantankerous grandpa character had been railing against senescence while also fuming about the perceived betrayal of Milo, his friend and former business partner.
This is about a friend who was denied the gift of growing old. Mona, whom I once described as a human tornado, passed away on March 16 at the age of 35. “Unfair” doesn’t even begin to describe it – no person I know relished life more than Mona, and she made the most of it, probably because she fought tooth and nail for every day in the past few years.
I once told you that she awed me, and her intensity was scary at times, which made her an acquired taste. On some occasions, it was surreal to be around this petite woman because you felt as if the air around her vibrated. Mona never stood still, and she always had a thousand things on her mind while also being physically engaged in at least two activities at any given moment.
Such a vibrant and inspired person should not be gone at 35! I understand the mechanics of her demise, but it still defies acceptance. The reason I’m paying tribute to my friend months after her passing is my realization that I will never move past the denial stage of grief. Perhaps this is unhealthy from a psychiatric point of view, but I’m certain it will do me greater harm to accept that Mona will never pick up the phone when I call, reply to my messages, or settle herself with a glass of beer for one of our video chats. Yes, I am shutting down reality in this case, but nothing will convince me that embracing the cold, hard truth can do any good.
In reality, Mona lost the battle with a brain tumor after beating breast cancer a couple of years earlier. She spent her final days bed-ridden, her eyesight and speech impaired, barely able to move a limb. A formidable fighter she may have been, but her poor body was ultimately unable to meet her indomitable spirit halfway. What makes it even more heart-breaking is that she couldn’t even get a proper burial because the virus was already raging by the time of her death.
In my mind, however, Mona is busy making plans for the day, cramming as much as possible into every minute. At some point, she will message me to share something funny, outrageous, or bizarre she has read or seen online. In the evening, we’ll probably get together for a video chat, swilling beer, discussing our day, and letting off steam.
You may wonder what I tell myself now that no messages come and the chats have ceased. If you must know, I sustain the delusion by attributing her absence to trips out of town (Mona used to spend almost every weekend with her beloved aunt), an evening out with friends, quality time with her daughter, or a competition at her film trivia club. The point is that I can always make excuses for her not showing up – she was the human embodiment of a busy bee, and her plate was full at all times. It is truly a wonder that she spent so much time with me, albeit virtually, which couldn’t be helped because we lived in different cities.
Regardless of your thoughts on my coping mechanism, I ask you to join me for a moment of silence to honor the life and times of an incredible young woman. Wherever you are, my dear girl, I hope it is a place where you are never without beer, shrimp, and Netflix!