Think pink...or yellow

4 years ago

Beth loved yellow.

I suppose it had always been her favorite color. I can't be sure.

Though we came from the same small town, when she was a senior, I was in the first grade. I only knew her as one of the beautiful high school girls.

I bet she loved yellow back then too.

She was always a bright spot in the world.

By the time I moved to Washington, D.C. when I was in my late 20s, the gap our ages had caused back home narrowed. She had been in D.C. since I was a kid. By any standards, Beth had done well for herself. She had climbed through the ranks to a rather fancy job with the U.S. Senate.

From where I sat, Beth was important. She had the world by its tail.

And, I did not.

Not only did I not have a job, I didn't even have a place to live at first.

And yet, from the day Beth and I reconnected, she was as kind and genuine to me as a person could be. If you've ever not had a job and spent a few months looking for one, you understand the appreciation you have for those rare souls who don't seem to mind or think less of you.

That's what Beth did.

She treated me with as much kindness and respect as I imagine she treated the senators she worked with in the Capitol Building.

That was Beth.

Our families had known each other for generations, but she and I didn't know anything beyond each other's names at first.

That changed quickly.

Beth helped introduce me to the city and many of its interesting residents. She had seen the workings of Washington from a unique vantage point for more than 20 years. She had great stories.

Within a few weeks, Beth became a huge part of my life. We became great friends. I knew I could call on her if I got in a bind. We spent hours rehashing the different angles ten years made on our perspectives of events back home. We shared story after story and often found ourselves laughing as long and hard as we could.

Nearly two years later and once I had a job and was settled, Beth and I remained close friends. One day, she called me and didn't sound quite as chipper as she usually did. I could tell something had happened. She explained that her beloved Cocker Spaniel had bumped her as he was jumping into her car, and something about that pain didn't seem right. I don't know exactly how or why she decided to go to the doctor, but she did.

Within a week, Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I remember her saying how determined she was to fight it. And, she did. She fought it with everything she had. For several months, she lived life to the absolute fullest. Her younger sister told me that the doctors had said, "She'll seem fine for a few months, but when it hits, it will hit really hard."

And it did.

Beth ended up in George Washington University Hospital. Several afternoons a week, I took the blue or orange line one stop over from my office in Rosslyn to Foggy Bottom. I'd walk the block from there to her hospital room.

She was still determined to fight and remained chipper. She never wanted to focus on the pain. With her mother, her sisters, other family members and friends by her side, we continued telling stories and laughing.

As long as we could.

It's Breast Cancer Awareness month, and most people think pink. But me, I think yellow.

Jan Risher's column, Long Story Short, appears Sundays. Email her at

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