July 24, 2010
My friend Gabrielle Bouliane was born this day 44 years ago; she was less than two years older than me. She died this past January.
Having gone to the hospital to see someone about back pain, Gabe was diagnosed with late-stage cancer of the gallbladder. This was just last year. She was told that the odds of someone surviving another five years after such a diagnosis tended to be roughly five out of a hundred, if I recall correctly.
Quite frankly, I thought she had a pretty good shot at being in that five percent. She was otherwise healthy, surrounded by a strong network of love and support, and had all the usual things that people say help in these situations: reasons to live, strong will, etc.
Gabe kept in touch with her many friends via Facebook and CaringBridge -- an example of the good use that the social networks can be put to. We all were able to stay connected with her; share photos and memories and shout-outs and well-wishes; offer support when she was feeling down. Coordinate visits. Even send her gifts by way of her Amazon.com wish list.
I phoned her on January 29th to see how she was doing. Out of respect for her situation, I did not want to be one of her hundreds of friends to inundate her with calls, so I had waited until I thought the dust had reasonably settled. When I called, a good friend of hers answered the phone; Gabe was not doing well, but she'd let her know that I called. A few hours later, Missy phoned me to let me know that Gabe had died shortly after my call.
Gabrielle and I knew each other since my high school days; she and I were writers for a weekly student news magazine at the University of Buffalo. The friends I made during my time at Generation have had a lasting impact on my life. They taught me ways of seeing and thinking that influence me to this day. Gabe, like all of them, was fiercely intelligent and expressive; kind and thoughtful.
We encountered each other at several different stages of our unfolding lives. Buffalo. Boston. Buffalo again. Seattle. She became a nationally known slam poet, and I was emceeing a monthly open-mic poetry night in a suburb of Seattle when someone said I should see about having her as a featured performer. "Funny. I used to know somebody with that name. But her bio here says she's a red-head. The Gabe I knew had brown hair...." Yeah. It was her.
She was driving a Rambler Classic at the time, which she loved. She had changed her appearance and had gone through marriage and divorce and a few career changes and had a new kind of fire and vitality that I hadn't recalled from our previous lives... but she was still Gabe.
A couple of months before she died, Gabe performed her last public appearance on the slam poetry scene. I hope you'll take a few moments out of your day to listen to what she had to say:
For all that I knew Gabe on and off over the years, I never expected to be hit as hard as I was by her death. Once she got and shared the news, it brought us all together. And, I think, it made her passing that much harder.
I am taking Gabe's advice. I'm doing what I can to make my life better today. I'm stepping with more purpose. I'm fixing what needs fixing, holding onto what's worth keeping, and putting to rest that which can not (or should not) be mended.
And, what about you, my friends? Are you living the life you want to live? If not... what are you waiting for?
Gabe, I miss you terribly, and will always cherish your memory. Happy Birthday.
Copyright (c)1998 - 2010 by Allan Rousselle. All rights reserved, all wrongs reversed, all reservations righted, all right, already.
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