A few years ago, on Rosh HaShanah, I noticed that she was wearing flats. I wondered what was wrong, but I couldn't ask and I couldn't figure it out. Then, a few months later, we all noticed she was having problems with her speech - she was slurring words. She was also having hand problems. And we all feared she'd had a stroke - although the symptoms didn't really match.
And then we found out the truth - the whole shul, at once, even though it had never been announced. And we wished that she'd had a stroke. We wished it so hard because a stroke, especially for a woman in her forties? She could recover from that.
You don't recover from ALS. From Lou Gehrig's disease. It's just a matter of time. And while Stephen Hawking has survived decades, most victims don't last more than a few years.
Last time I saw her was last Rosh HaShanah, in a wheelchair, with a board to communicate.
She died on Friday. We learned about it just before Shabbat; others in the congregation learned on Shabbat - there were audible gasps when the rabbi gave the news. It's so odd - we've been expecting this for a while now, and I was just wondering about her a few days ago - but it still came as a shock.
The funeral was, of course, today. It was only a few blocks from our house so we took the bus, and met others going the same way. The place was crowded - relatives, the teachers from the school where she worked, the EMTs who worked with her husband, friends, and the shul people. It's a New Moon, so technically there could be no eulogy, although the rabbi said some lovely things, but it was, of necessity, very short. And there were tears.
Not quite a friend, but someone I knew and will miss.