I stood off to the side, a common place for me, and watched her arms raise and hips gently sway. The sparkles on her low-cut, v-neck, blue sequence dress flashed in the lights. Her tall silver heels and spiky hair, not to mention her signature blue eye shadow, led me to believe she felt good. Watching her dance freely and work the room to offer her sincere love to everyone in it, I forgot about her pain.
I forgot she'd been in the hospital just hours earlier and that in a few minutes she'd excuse herself and take one of her many trips to the restroom to empty or adjust one of the multiple hidden bags strapped around her abdomen. I forgot that she'd fought stage IV colorectal cancer for over a decade and that she'd run out of treatment options.
I knew she was pushing it, but I knew she didn't care.
Because she was Rose.
I stood off to the side like a teenage wallflower and watched her. Part of me understood her drive - the fire inside of her that refused to let cancer steal special moments. Part of me didn't understand. How could she physically feel so bad yet live so free? The bruises and bandages on her arms from recent needle pokes reminded me of her reality.
How could she go deep when she knew her time was short? How could she bypass the sticky quicksand of pity and rise above her illness on behalf of her fellow man? How could she smile so big when pain ran through her frail body?
I watched as she graciously took selfies and accepted hugs (despite her weakened immune system). She danced like nobody was watching on the dance floor. Or maybe she knew everyone was watching, and it fueled her even more. How she did it, I still don't know.
I began to grieve.
I assumed this would be the last time I saw her. If I had to choose a moment, it was a good one. She was dancing on a crowded dance floor in a low-cut sparkly blue dress.
Because she was Rose -- it didn't exactly work like that.
A few weeks later I saw her again. It was outdoors and at a crowded park, nonetheless, with an inflatable colon to her left. She rocked a stage alongside country music artists as she and Craig Campbell performed their song "Stronger Than That" together.
Her ability to travel just weeks after a prolonged hospital stay puzzled me. As the weeks and months went on, I watched her miracles unfold. She defied the odds and she kept going. Some of it undoubtedly was science - cancer research was one of her passions and her life had become dependent on it. Some of it I believe was her faith - a heart-to-heart conversation about our beliefs one day led me to know the quietly devout side of her. And some of it was simply just her, and the gift she had to overcome suffering and disease for just a little longer.
Because she was Rose.
The last time I did see her, she rocked a stage once again. Of course - in a tight blue dress and tall heels. She was with Craig again. They performed their song. Eric stood beside her. Together they inspired a room full of people, which flowed out onto a nation of people, to have strength and be strong. To not let cancer win. To bond with others and fight together.
The cameraman commented that when Rose got on stage, he got the best shots of the night. Not only did the cameras love her, those taking the pictures also fell in love. Truth be told, we all fell in love. I doubt there's a soul on earth who knew her and didn't love her.
Because she was Rose.
Her passing brings such mourning because of the love and joy she never withheld. I am among the many who received it. As we drag our feet to say tough goodbyes, I can't help but see her fist pumped in the air, and hear her Jersey accent yelling at us, "keep going!" So I will, we all will, keep going because in these moments of hurt our healing begins.
We will push through no matter what - just like she did.
Because she was Rose.
Thank you Danielle, as usual you have captured the essence of what all of us are feeling and managed to put it into words ????
Thank you Patti. Love you.
So unbelievably said….. I’ve known Rose since 2005 and have loved her from the word “hello”… We all have a tremendous amount to learn from her and her entire family and have so much to be grateful for the times and amazing memories we all have of Rose….. Thank YOU for putting your words in type, as I appreciate everything Rose stood for, and continues to stand for…..
All the testimonials from professional colleagues and personal friends bespeak the essence of the being and soul of Rose.
Thank you to those who’ve so well described and documented the many qualities, characteristics and actions taken by Rose and Eric in advocating for colorectal cancer screening and perpetuating scientific and medical research with the end in sight to discovering the cure.
You nailed it. If you met her, you loved her. I truly loved her. Because of the way she lived her life, I actually thought I had more time with her. I am so glad i spent time with her at the softball game. Got to see her hit that ball and try to get to first base, came right over to me and said “did you see that? I run like an old lady” I told her she did better than I could do. Then she proceeded to ask me about my daughter who is battling cancer. And asking me how I am doing. It was never about her, she always made me feel loved and important. I know my life will go on but there will forever be that place in my heart that will miss OUR ROSE. She was so many things to so many people. We will all miss you so much, we love you Rose.
That was a beautiful tribute to her. I’ve never met her but by your words I can tell she was full of energy, faith, and love. Her pictures captured her passion and zest for life. I know her life and the work she has done to bring awareness will live on through others. #BecauseSheWasRose
Beautiful, bc that’s what Rose was…. R. I. P. ?
Rose crashed my wedding 22 years ago and danced the whole night…she was an amazing person ..oxoxox
THANK YOU FOR WRITING SUCH A BEAUTIFUL AND ACCURATE TRIBUTE FOR MY FRIEND, HAD TO DRY MY EYES A FEW TIMES TO GET THROUGH IT BUT SHE WAS THE STRONGEST WOMAN I KNOW … MAY SHE FINALLY REST IN PEACE 🙁
Great tribute of a very special friend!
I love what you wrote about her….she was an amazing woman ? Because she was Rose!
You captured Rose’s spirit perfectly. She was a beacon of light and energy. You just SENSED her presence when she was nearby. So inspiring.
An amazing woman who always had a smile on her face! Very tough woman and this I an amazing tribute to her!
Love you with every beat of our hearts! We will continue to raise awareness and play for you! Just drove past the fields and remember that beautiful smile and I will hold that close to my heart! I send my condolences to your husband and daughter and family. Love you always!
Beautiful tribute to an amazing woman. Rose will forever live in our. hearts
How could anyone have said it any better! She inspired us all, and I told her that God had a special reason for putting her in all of our lives.
So Beautiful .. said about a Beautiful Rose who came to me at St.Peters and needed help and became my friend,..who fought till the end and it was never about her.. Many prayers to her dear husband and family and friends..it was a pleasure always when I would see her because it meant that she was still with us.. My Beautiful Rose you have done your time go and RIp..but one more thing ..My Sweet Papi left us on the 13th could you look for him and give him a nice kiss on his forehead and tell him its from his daughter Norma xxoo. Thanks for your beauty and your chats!!! Peace…:-)
So beautifully put?????????
Thank you Danielle, for sharing your wonderful words about Rose. So now I guess we add as we fight: Two new Stage 4 treatment options: Dance. And Song.
She and Eric were an amazing team. I will remember her laughter and her deep love for family. What a woman!