We lost one of our best this weekend.
Like so very many, I’ve been asking, “Why? Why her? Why Sandra?” She did everything right! She was one of the good ones! I wish I knew the answers to those questions. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find the answers. I still can’t. I’m sure I never will.
I met Sandra in 2013 at the GCLS conference in Dallas. Her first book, Letters Never Sent, was about to be released and she had a limited number of early release copies at the conference with her. I introduced myself and said, “So, I hear you have a book out. Tell me about it.” I’ll never forget the way her eyes lit up as she started to talk about her novel. We became friends in that very moment. We talked about Chicago in the 1930s – that’s where and when my grandmother grew up and it was a setting for Letters Never Sent. Jokingly, I said, “Hey! We might be related. My Great-great grandmother was a Moran.” In all honesty, the likelihood of us being related is ridiculously slim since “Moran” is equivalent to “Smith” or “Jones.” But, from that moment, Sandra called me her cousin. Because that’s the kind of woman Sandra was.
My mother had passed away the previous November. So, during the conference, she was included in the Lost Sisters memorial presentation. (Mom was a member of GCLS, too.) Later, Sandra reached out to me to tell me how moved she was by the presentation…that it was so evident that my mom and I had a special relationship and she wished she could have met her. And so, we started talking to each other about our mothers. Oh, how Sandra loved her mom! From then on, whenever there was a time she knew I might be struggling without my mom – anniversary of Mom’s passing, Mom’s birthday, a holiday, Mother’s Day, even my own birthday – Sandra sent me a text just to say that she was thinking about me and that she loved me. Every time. Without fail.
In September, I traveled to Kansas so that I could follow Sandra to Albuquerque for the Western Women Writers of New Mexico event. Sandra was one of the featured authors and she was kind enough to let me travel with her. That is when I found out that Sandra Moran drives like an Indy 500 competitor. “Just for the record, 5 miles over the speed limit is not a moving violation. So there’s still room to go faster.” (When I had to catch up to her after falling behind, I also learned that my car can, in fact, reach 100 mph.) As we drove through Kansas on our way to New Mexico, I would periodically get text messages from Sandra that would start with “FUN FACT!” And then she would proceed to tell me something interesting about the very small town we were driving through.
After the event in Albuquerque was over, I went on to Las Vegas and then Palm Springs, and Sandra stayed in the area to do some research. I made her promise me that she would text me periodically on her way home so that I knew she was okay. She made me promise the same. At one point, after I left Palm Springs for the drive home, I got a message from Sandra saying, “You need to be checking in, sister…” She’d been in horrendous pain because of her back, and she was worrying about me. And so, from Kansas and in pain, she kept an eye on me and kept me company as I drove across the country.
That’s who Sandra was. A kind, shining soul. We all have stories like these. We’ve been reading about them in Facebook posts and blogs. We’ve been sharing them in conversations with others.
Sandra sending a message just to say, “Hey! How ARE you? I miss your face.”
Sandra foregoing her own pain to attend an event so that she wouldn’t let people down.
Sandra talking to you – and only you – and making you feel like you were the most important person in the world.
Sandra giving 200% of herself at all times.
I was fortunate enough to see Sandra last week, after she’d gotten home from the hospital. Marianne Martin drove to Chicago and then we hopped in my car for the drive to Kansas. Ann McMan met us there the next day. Sandra’s wife and mother were kind enough to allow us to visit every day between Saturday and Tuesday.
We got to spend time with our friend. We got to laugh with her. We got to cry with her. We got to giggle at her cats with her.
We got to tell her that we love her.
And, of course, Sandra was Sandra. Her wit and humor ever present, even under these tragic circumstances. Concerned that people were worrying about her. Shocked and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from all over the world. Suggesting just the right drink to have with dessert. (That chocolate milk stout that I blogged about last week was her suggestion – and she watched me carefully with each sip for my reaction. Her instincts were 100% correct.) We told her about the 5K/10K that people – wearing neon and a smile – were doing for her. “Really? Why?” “Well, because people love you, Sandra. So many people love you.” She smiled and said, “Wow.”
When we first arrived on Saturday, Sandra was in a great deal of pain. Hugging her shot the pain through the roof. From that point on, I let her hug me hello and goodbye…I did not hug her. I just kissed her on the cheek. Tuesday night was the last night we spent with her since we were leaving Wednesday morning. Her pain wasn’t as bad at that time. Sandra walked us to the door when we left and when I leaned in to let her hug me, she whispered, “Give me a hug.” I was able to wrap my arms around her – gently. Sandra squeezed me as much as she could. We said our “I love yous” to each other. But we didn’t say, “Goodbye.”
Instead, we said, “See you soon.” I chose this for two big reasons. First, I wanted to remain positive. It was important to me not to bring the moment down. Yes, I knew the reality of the situation. But hope can be a powerful force. And we saw a change in Sandra over those four days, so we had hope. Secondly, I know that “See you soon” is a true statement. I believe in my heart that while I’ll never see Sandra again in this world, I will see her again someday. Sandra, knowing my beliefs and respecting those beliefs, said, “You got it. See you soon.”
I did see Sandra sooner that I’d expected. I saw her last night in a dream.
There were a whole bunch of us there – too many to name. We followed her to the hospital (using a military convoy, which I’m not sure I want to analyze) and then were sent away because there was nothing to be done. As we were all sitting together in a random house (which actually shows up often in my dreams…when I remember them) crying together and comforting each other, the front door opened. There was Sandra! Smiling and looking lovely. I swear she was taller. And she glowed.
She said to all of us, “It’s okay. I’m good.”
I woke up crying…and smiling. Because Sandra was there.
Now, whether this was my subconscious having fun with me or it was a visit from my friend, I don’t know for sure. But I’m going to hold it close to my heart in either case.
We all have stories about Sandra and the impact she’s had on our lives – individually and collectively. Mine are not particularly unique. But they are my memories to cherish. Just as you all have your memories to cherish. And I hope you cherish them.
I hope you share them.
Feel free to share them in the comments below or on your Facebook page or in your own blog or with your neighbor down the street.
Just be sure to share them.
That is how we keep Sandra’s legacy alive. It’s a legacy that needs to be kept alive.