Cancer sucks. It has little regard for the feelings of its victims or the people whose friends depart this life due to its pernicious effects. Yesterday I lost my friend Debbie, who was as good a person and as good a friend as anyone I’ve ever met on this earth.
Debbie and I got acquainted thanks to my request for someone to handle public relations for a space conference I was running ten years ago. She wasn’t a full-time PR pro, but she was an organized and enthusiastic space supporter. She also had a hilarious sense of humor and an extrovert’s joyful willingness to get introverts to talk. Debbie designated herself “Media Queen” and several of the ladies on the team soon picked up on their own “royal” titles, forming a “Tiara Coalition,” each sovereign of her own domain (track chair, signage, etc.). Her chipper demeanor in a stressful environment kept many of us calmer and looser than we otherwise might have felt because she was always there to jolly us along. The picture above is typical Debbie and how I remember her best: crazy happy and waving enthusiastically for the camera. That picture always makes me smile.
My friend also hosted me in her home when I went up to Washington, DC, to play go-fer and convention manager for the Science Cheerleaders every other year from 2010 to 2018. Later, she became my tax advisor/preparer as I transitioned to the freelancing life. Debbie’s professional skills were akin to her getting-introverts-to-talk talent, as she helped small businesses organize and run their business. It was a truly remarkable set of skills to have, and she applied them to organizations as diverse as a publishing company, a couple of non-profit space advocacy conferences, and a small space avionics firm.
But mostly I’ll just miss my friend and the great conversations we had. She was a counselor who seemed to understand the introverted geek male better than he understood himself, and her fun-loving, welcoming ways caused those geek males to trust her. She made conversations so fun, you sort of forgot that she was dispensing wise advice along the way. Beyond space and geeky males, she had a love of her two adult-age kids, elephant statues, crafting, board games, Cafe Berlin (a German restaurant within easy walking distance of her place near Capitol Hill), and fine whiskeys (as well as whiskys).
As the pandemic hit–I might have the timing wrong–Debbie moved out of DC to be closer to her family in Delaware. Then I learned she’d gotten ovarian cancer and was undergoing some pretty harsh medical treatments to get rid of the stuff. I think I spoke to her once in 2020 and now I regret not trying more often. I know I sent her a card or two to cheer her up during her treatment and looked forward (at some point) to seeing her again once she’d recovered. That didn’t happen, though, and now a lot of people beyond selfish little me are minus a joyful, vivacious presence in our lives. It sucks, and I will miss my friend a great deal.