I really haven't had much experience with death. My grandparents passed away when I was 10-12. One of them before I was even born. I went to the funeral, I remember those things, but because my relationships with my grandparents wasn't that close, I didn't feel the emotional loss.
I really haven't had anyone else in my family pass away. Not even friends. I had a guy I knew in High School die when hit by a car. I liked him, he was nice, but again, I didn't have that connection with him. I mean, I just wasn't that close to him.
When I was moving to California, I put my facebook feelers out (I seriously love facebook for that) and asked if anyone knew anyone who lives in Temecula. I got two hits. One was a relative of someone that lived in my current ward, and one was a friend of a very good friend of my own. I called both people, they lived in different stakes actually, and spoke at length about schools, areas, neighborhoods, etc. I felt it was the only way I could make an educated decision about where to live and where to have my kids go to school.
One of these people was Claudine Taylor. My friend Nicole, who was a neighbor of mine growing up, and also went to BYU Jersalem with me immediately told me her friend Claudine would be a great source of information. Indeed she was. She would speak with me endlessly about where to live, schools and more. She would never act irritated by my calls, or questions. When I got into town, she checked in with me to see if I was settled, her son applied for work at our store, and quickly became a favorite of mine. (Yes, I totally have favorites). I would speak with her from time to time, but we would go to lunch, and talk about life. She was easy to talk to, I could have told her anything and she would have kept it in total confidence. She was one of THOSE people. It's not like we spoke everyday, or even every week. We would chat once a month or so, and go to lunch every couple of months. Just to check in with each other. Having such a rocky ride over the past few years, I appreciated her solid friendship, and knew, in a pinch, I could have asked her for anything.
Justin came into work at the beginning of summer, he was getting ready to attend BYU, HI and go on a mission. He said that his mom was sick, and going to a lot of Dr. appointments, and that he needed to quit a few months early because of her illness. I inquired as to what was wrong, and he said the Dr.'s really didn't know. I informed a mutual friend of Claudine's illness, and she said she didn't even know (she was in Claudine's ward) she was sick. Her husband, being in the Bishopric, quickly responded to find out what was wrong. I was told she was going into the hospital. Not being a "daily" friend, I sent her a facebook message, asking how she was doing. It didn't get a response. I asked Justin, he said she was sick, but doing okay. He thought she'd be home that week. Another week went by, she was still in the hospital, my friend in her ward said she didn't think she'd make it!?!?!?! I was stunned, but thought CERTAINLY in this day and age, people don't just die at the age of 43 from "nothing".
Justin left for school at BYU, HI, I thought for sure that was a good sign that she must be getting better, since he had pretty much been caring for his younger siblings all summer long. He got his mission call, and I thought, WOW! Claudine must be elated!!! She heard of his mission call just hours before she passed away. He didn't even get to tell her himself.
The shock and stun to me has been horrifying. I have never felt such a loss in my life. She wasn't even an "everyday" friend, but a solid as a rock friend. My heart was sick for her son, and other small children, she is only a few years older than myself, and the thought of leaving this life without seeing my children grow into adults was shattering my world. I reached out to Justin, and assured him, that we would support him without a doubt, and although he probably has plenty of people who will support him, I wanted him to know, if he ever needed a "mom" to talk to, I would drop everything to be there for him.