For those who may remember, I did some writing/reviews for Garage Radio last year. The person who got me that gig was my neighbor, Mary Ellen. She was the Press Director for the site, and when she found out I was a musician and could write, she gave me a shot. Really opened some doors for me.
Last night, at 10:15 PM, Mary Ellen lost a 4 month long battle with brain cancer. She was only 55. I was there at the end, along with my wife, her husband, daughter, and friends. She was an amazing person. One of the most unique I have ever met, or will meet.
She was diagnosed in late January. At the time, the Doctor told her that only 5% of all people survive this cancer. Survival basically means remission. It will come back at some point. He also told her that more than likely, she had about 3-4 months to live. She didn't care. Her outlook was great, and she insisted that she was going to beat it. I can tell you she put up one Hell of a fight.
When I first met her, after we moved in next door, I thought, "Who is this bizarre lady?" Hair a burnt red/orange (what little she had...to call it "wispy" would have been stretching it), walking around with a plastic cane filled with blue sparkles ( I later found out that she had other color sparkles, and would change them out when it fit her mood). She loved heavy metal music. Hard core, metal music (Lamb of God, and Mower were some of her favorites). I later found out she also loved the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and other 60's icons. That's where we hit it off; our love of music. She would talk about the bands she liked with such passion. Even if it was a band that I wasn't into, I would nod my head in agreement because I have that passion about the bands I like too. I got what she was saying.
My wife was really close to her. She was among one of her closest friends. While I was at Coachella, she had the opportunity to take Mary Ellen out to dinner last Saturday. She wanted to do this because she was leaving for a business trip the next day. She is very thankful that she was able to have a moment with her before the end. We think Mary Ellen must have known something was up, because she also gave my wife a very heartfelt hand written card thanking her for all that she had done.
When I returned on Monday, Mary Ellen's husband came over that night to tell me that she had fallen violently on Sunday, and had been taken to a hospice center. They feared that she had a stroke. Turns out, it was not a stroke, but the cancer had spread so much, that the entire left side of her body was useless.
At this point, she was still talking. Classic Mary Ellen...There is a harpist that goes around the rooms at the center to play for the patients. When the harpist came in to play in her room, she kicked her out. Wasn't rocking enough. Brilliant, simply brilliant.
By Thursday, things had taken a turn for the worse. She was no longer eating, or talking. Her breathing became irregular. She could still hear though. I got a call from my wife at work on Friday saying that she was heading over there, and that I should come too. We knew it wasn't going to be long.
She was able to hold my hand when I spoke to her, and her right eye opened when I was talking about Coachella. I described in as much detail as I could the Roger Waters set, and how much she would have loved it. We left shortly after that, telling her that we would return later.
We did, only to find her condition was getting worse. I had brought my guitar in to play for her. One of the bands she managed also came in, and played some songs. It was wonderful. Mary Ellen had never had the chance to hear me play, so I wanted to make sure she could at least once. I knew she liked the Foo Fighters, so I played "Learn to Fly" for her. Didn't realize how perfect that song was, until I started singing and really paid attention to the lyrics.
Mary Ellen passed a few hours later. Many tears were shed, hugs were shared, and friendships created. I wish you all could have met her. She personifies Coachella.
Keep Rockin', Mary Ellen. I'll keep my amp at 11 for you.