remembering a remarkable woman

You know the saying -“Heaven gained an angel today.” Well, yesterday it really happened. Paxson left us, after the bravest battle anyone has ever waged against a grim diagnosis. I bet you also know the saying, “Women are like tea bags.  You can tell their strength when they are in hot water.” From the moment she was diagnosed, she was like 4  Irish breakfast tea bags, maybe more.

I fist met Paxson in the spring of 2000, at a party in another town, before we moved here. She knew we were moving and made a point of meeting us and offering help. She had advice – about schools, neighborhoods, places to eat.  Not long after we moved to town, she included us in a big party, and we made some new friends that night.  And within a year or so, we found our way to the same church where she and her family worshiped.  It was a relief to see someone I knew in a sea of new faces, and, from the start, in quiet ways, she guided me towards becoming involved and invested there.

During much of the time that Paxson was ill, my own life was challenging,  and I wasn’t directly in touch with her or her family. I kept up with her progress through friends, saw occasional and always remarkable photos on Facebook, and caught glimpses of her at church. And then, I saw Paxson twice in the last two months of her life. The first time was at a party. She and her husband were just back from a family beach vacation. She looked tanned and  rested. But she was also thinner, and I could see that the relentless disease had made inroads. We didn’t talk much that evening- just a hug and a quick catch up. I spent a few minutes with Greg, who watched carefully over my shoulder as we chatted, making sure she was okay. I left the party marveling at their energy for life, love and connection.  Two days later I received a text from Paxson, in which she said that she had only just learned of all that had been going on in my life, and she wanted me to know she was thinking about me and hoped we could talk soon. I was almost too stunned to reply. Talk about grace. It was hard for me to wrap my head around how someone who was terminal could find the energy to reach out to me.

Two weeks ago I saw Paxson and Greg at the early service at church. They were seated in the pew directly across the aisle from me. When it came time for communion, I noticed as Greg leaned toward Paxson and whispered to her. I wondered if he was asking her if she wanted to walk to the altar for communion or receive it in the pew. You can probably guess what she did. I watched as she rose, carefully, steadied her eyes on the communion rail ahead, and slowly made her way to the front of the church.

From the moment she was diagnosed, Paxson was resolute, full of grace and incredible focus. Her calm and her faith helped others to stay calm and have faith.  Paxson spent time, in so many quiet ways, helping those around her prepare for the day when she would be gone. She planned her funeral. It was beautiful- her- through and through. I hear she wrote a book for each of her children and one for her husband too. I believe she became even more thoughtful, insightful and  wise during the time she was ill. She is gone, but I think of her almost daily. I marvel at her courage and contemplate her composure. In my opinion she and her husband wrote the manual for how to navigate a most heartbreaking time. Anyone who was paying attention learned from them.

 I hope Paxson knew how deeply she touched so many. As one friend said today, “She was a good soul.” Yes. The best. Heaven has gained an angel, but we have lost a beautiful woman.

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