Remembering our girlfriends we’ve lost …Friendship Dana Shafer

Rest in peace Elizabeth Edwards. You were a good mom, a supportive and faithful partner and a strong woman who inspired so many women.

My friend LINDA LOWEN, the Women’s Issues editor for About.com, had this to say about Elizabeth:

She touched our lives and evolved beyond the stereotypical “candidate’s wife.” She endured three of the worst tragedies a woman can face — the death of a child, a diagnosis of cancer, and an unfaithful husband. Yet her name became synonymous with resilience, and she inspired every woman who knew her story. Within 24 hours of learning that Elizabeth Edwards had discontinued treatment, we heard of her passing. We lost her too soon.

Just a day before, when hearing of Elizabeth Edwards’ situation, Linda wrote a touching tribute to her girlfriend Dana, who also passed away much too soon – for her friend Linda and for her three little boys.

Her story and tribute brought me to tears – not only for her pain and sadness, but for mine. A year ago (December 23rd), I too lost a long-time sister-friend also named Dana. (Isn’t she beautiful shown in the photo above?) We were college girlfriends who grew much closer after school when we planned a vacation with two great guy friends – my favorite cousin Carey and another friend Barry (aka: Bear!). We called it ‘The Big Chill’ and it began our ‘Big Chill family’ that took vacations and celebrated weddings, holidays and everything possible – especially when she and Bear finally realized they were in love and married 17 years ago.

Dana was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and bravely fought that battle with grace, funny wig stories and a willpower that could fuel an army. She inspired so many others when she spoke and wrote books with her mom and fellow breast cancer survivor, ‘Mama Sue.’ She lived and loved DEEPLY – with passion for life, her friends, family and her wonderful husband Bear.

(Dana’s cancer, along with my friend Allison’s, were both instrumental in my starting Girlfriendology in 2006. I felt the need to inspire women to be supportive and there for each other and I credit their friendships with everything good that has come from Girlfriendology.)

As sad as losing her is my sadness that she and I had a falling out about a year before the cancer came back for it’s last fatal visit. We still were friends, but our sisterhood had been shaken and we missed out on spending the precious moments that I so wish we had back. It’s a regret I’ll never get over. It’s a lesson that keeps me inspired for Girlfriendology – that hopefully we can make a difference in womens friendships and that we’ll all learn from each other how to be there for one another – through cancer, disagreements, challenges along the way.

It was just about a year ago when Bear, Carey and I bundled up and had to go cemetery shopping. A couple weeks later we spent the night in Dana’s house with Bear – the first night of her not being there. The upcoming ‘anniversary’ of Dana’s passing, the passing of Elizabeth Edwards and all the other women whose lives have been cut short by cancer, and of my friend Linda’s friend Dana – all remind me of the immeasurable value of female friendship. The joy of sister-friends who know us completely and still love everything about us. The support of all the women who bless our lives with their inspiration and dedication. The shortness of life and the terrible tragedy when friendships are cut short.

We’re planning a ‘Big Chill’ get-together for Christmas with the remaining college friends and ‘honorary Big Chill’ spouses. Dana’s spirit with live with us but I just wish for a few more laughs, hugs and friendship moments with my wonderful, fun, beautiful friend.

Rest in peace Elizabeth Edwards. Rest in peace Dana. May your inspiring lessons live on in us and remind us to appreciate every single day and friends who fill those days with love.