The above picture is, left to right, me, Hollie Dulin and my son, Trey. I first noticed Hollie at a meeting for those who were travelling to England and Scotland on a tour with my son’s high school teacher, Mr. George. She really stood out because of her contagious grin, and the colorful scarves she would wear on her head. It was obvious to me she was fighting cancer, but she never used the dreaded “C” word, at least in the short time Trey and I got to spend with her.
Being around those who are terminally ill is always awkward for me. I never know whether to bring it up, so I usually just stick with the generic, “How are you feeling?” Hollie would always say she was tired, but good. She had such a contagious laugh, which made you quickly forgot she was fighting a terminal illness, and you would inevitably end up talking and joking with her.
I’ve had chronic back pain for many years, and can’t keep up with most groups, and it was the same on this, Trey’s senior high school trip. He graciously hung back with me, instead of walking far ahead with the other students, and it was “in the back” Hollie and I got to know each other. When Mr. George separated us into small groups, Trey and I ended up in her group, along with her sister, her brother-in-law and her mom.
She had such a beautiful spirit, and looking at her pictures on Facebook, I truly wish I would’ve known her before the trip. She seemed to have a really goofy sense of humor, which means she would’ve fit in with our family just fine. As I’ve chronicled in the past, my family steel themselves to laugh, every day, regardless of pain and illness.
Trey and I would naturally get lost in the beauty of Europe, as we did at Stonehenge, only to turn around and find Hollie and her mom sitting on a bench, watching others and smiling. She didn’t want anyone to feel guilty about having fun, however, and would tell everyone she was fine, “just tired,” and encourage us to have fun.
That’s what she was all about: laughing through the pain, smiling through the fatigue, pushing herself as long as physically possible, resting a while and then getting up and doing it all over again.
We lost Hollie to cancer two days ago, Monday, June 19. She was 45 years old.
My wife and I were on our way home after a wonderful visit with our daughter and grandson when I received a simple text from a friend, Kathee, simply stating, “Hollie past away.”
Man, it was like someone sucker-punched me right in the gut. Trey works evenings as a Custodian, and we decided to call him at work with the news, so he didn’t randomly stumble across it on Facebook. He was speechless, and as I hugged him when he later walked through the door, he said, “I went into a room by myself and cried pretty hard about Hollie. She always laughed through the pain, right, dad? That’s just the way she was.”
To show you her sense of humor in the face of certain and impending death, this is her last post on Facebook, not two weeks before she passed away:
“Who needs toys when you have a paper bag and tissue paper??? ”
Wish I could’ve known you longer, my friend. My heart is so heavy with your loss, but I know you are dancing with the angels now, your hair waving in the breeze, your laugh warming the hearts of your father and all those who have gone on before.
Rest in peace, Hollie. Much love. See ya soon.