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    Monday, November 28, 2005

    Teresa Remembers a Devoted Reader

    We often tell you how much our readers mean to us and I was reminded of that all over again when I found this note from a couple of years ago in my files:

    The e-mail I received this morning was simple. "I just want to tell you that my dear sister died today and to thank you for being such a friend to her." I first heard from Lourdes Goulart through snail mail. She was a young woman from the Azores living in America at the time and wanted to know if my name was Portuguese. She sent me an e-mail the following year to let me know that she was suffering from cancer that had originated in her breast and spread to her spine. She had returned to the Azores because medical care there was free. I sent her one of my autographed books, then rounded up several other books from my generous friends.

    Shortly after that I received a beautiful cross-stitch of a windmill she could see from the window of her hospital room. Lourdes apologized for its quality because the chemo was weakening her eyesight. I thought it was beautiful. We exchanged e-mails and books several times after that. Her e-mails were always bright, witty, and filled with humor and humanity despite the suffering she was enduring. I couldn't begin to imagine what it must be like to have bits of your teeth break off with each meal or to have the cutest orderly at the hospital catch you with your pants around your ankles when you collapsed in the bathroom of your hospital room because you were too weak to sit on the commode. She told me how she'd fled from the dentist in her wheelchair after he told her he would need to pull all of her teeth because the mental image of herself--fat and swollen with no hair or teeth was just too much to take in.

    She fantasized about American food (especially Mexican and Chinese :)) and talked about how hungry the steroids made you, how you just kept stuffing yourself, imagining the calorie count, and at the same time contemplating eating your mother's fingers if they got too close to your plate.

    She started my most recent book the day before she entered the hospital for the last time. She didn't want to read past the first page because she didn't like to be interrupted once she started on a good book. She left me with this bit of wisdom: "Sometimes the best you can hope for is to survive today and have something to eat tomorrow."

    Go with God, Lourdes, and I hope He was waiting to greet you with a romance novel in one hand and a fat Mexican burrito in the other.