In the Suburbs: Cancer robbed us of a special person when Lynn died

It seems so hard to believe that it’s only been five months since we lost our close friend Lynn to stage four lung cancer. And I know the focus this month is mainly on breast cancer awareness and advancements in that area, but I hope you’ll indulge me as I share how special Lynn was and how much we will miss her.

Ironically, I had done a column more than a year ago about the importance of not ignoring phone calls from loved ones and friends we haven’t heard from in awhile. Fortunately, I had answered one of those calls from Lynn, who lived in Mecungie, Penn., near Allentown. Call it a gut reaction, but I was so glad I picked up.

I expected one of our great catch-up calls, but well over an hour later I had the whole story of her serious illness. Lynn and her husband Mickey had gone on a ski trip with friends when she began to feel shortness of breath and severe fatigue. At first, Lynn thought it was nothing serious, but she planned a trip to the doctor immediately.

Lynn received news she never expected to hear. Apparently she was already in stage four lung cancer and the doctor could not give her any firm information about her future. He ordered an immediate battery of other tests and chemotherapy.

Despite her diagnosis, Lynn was a fighter and, COVID pandemic aside, she said she was determined to beat this cancer and live. She explained that she was tired from the chemo treatments and worried more about COVID complications, but she ended our conversation by saying that we should plan a trip to Mecungie sometime in the spring of 2021.

I was choking back the tears when I hung up, but Lynn’s usual strength and determination fueled my hopes that we would make that trip to Mecungie. I stayed in touch with her over the next eight months that followed, sending her upbeat, inspirational books and lots of humorous cards.

Our “last” conversation was in March of this year and Lynn was absolutely euphoric.

“I’m in remission!” she told me. “The doctor is very encouraged and optimistic. Let’s talk soon about when you and the family can come for a visit. I am just hopeful and all of you, including Lucas and Caleb, can come but that will depend on COVID and whether my immune system is strong enough. I can’t wait. Let’s talk soon.”

Sadly soon never came. I tried texting Lynn several times and finally decided to just wait for her call or text. I figured if there was anything to be concerned about I would hear from Lynn about it.

Then, just before Mother’s Day, our daughters sent us the Facebook link about Lynn’s passing. Somehow, knowing the unpredictability of this deadly disease, I wasn’t surprised, just so very sad. Lynn had died two days shy of her 60th birthday on Mother’s Day weekend. The funeral would be the following week in Mecungie. The light of this lively, giving person had been snuffed out, leaving a real void for so many.

As I reflected on the Lynn we knew, there were only smiles. We worked together for several years in the same public relations firm in Manhattan and I watched Lynn climb higher and higher in the organization. She started as our receptionist and ended as a vice president and account manager.

I learned early that she was actually living just a few blocks away from us in Fairfield, so we often commuted together on Metro North. When the house she and her friends were renting was sold, we told Lynn we had a spare room and she moved in with us for awhile as she searched for a place in Queens.

Lynn and her sister Diane, who also died of cancer several years ago, eventually took an apartment near LaGuardia airport and my wife and I and our daughters enjoyed spending many Saturdays or Sundays with Lynn doing things in the city.

She finally reconnected with Mickey, an old friend, after dating a wide range of the wrong kinds of guys, and soon we received an invitation to their wedding in New Jersey. It was a beautiful event.

As the years went by, we began hearing about Lynn’s and Mickey’s growing family — eventually there were three. And later, it seemed like we were always receiving invites to communions and graduations. So we always remained in touch.

When Lynn became a public relations consultant, she was kind enough to involve me in a couple of the projects she was working on, so I did more traveling to Pennsylvania and she came to Connecticut as well. I really enjoyed the experience of meeting her clients.

Our last visit had been about five years ago when we drove out to Mecungie on a warm summer day to talk with Lynn and her daughter Melissa about a quilt Melissa wanted to have made. Of course, we had a great visit, promised another very soon and headed back.

Once the funeral arrangements were set, I decided to be there to say a final goodbye. My wife wasn’t up to making the trip to Mecungie for the funeral, but I was so glad I came. After the funeral, Mickey and the family were so grateful I came and asked me to come back to the house for a little reception. I was so glad I did that, because I reconnected with Lynn’s sister and niece, met other relatives and had a chance to chat with some of Lynn’s friends.

On the trip home, I wondered quietly whether I would ever see these folks or Lynn’s immediate family again. But just a few weeks later, I received a touching, gracious note from her daughter, Melissa, hoping we could stay in touch, based on our long-time friendship with her mom. That letter meant so much to my wife and me. I recalled how beautifully Mickey and the family had eulogized Lynn, capturing the essence of this amazing woman.

My wife and I will always keep a warm place in our hearts for Lynn and her family, and I hope we’ll have a chance to see them in the future. Meanwhile, I made a point of remembering Lynn in the recent Swim Across the Sound fundraiser for cancer this past summer.

Cancer robbed all of us of a very special human being when Lynn died. But we’ll never forget the great times we spent and the valuable friendship we forged. Hers was a life so well lived.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.