My friend Dr. Rachel Gilligan died at the age of 45 just the other day. The initial report is that the stress of legal charges pending against her which had something to do with substance abuse allegations shocked me because no one was less likely to be in trouble with the law than Rachel. She was a Mobile Veterinarian, an incredibly competent and compassionate woman, a high-level well-educated professional and a well-respected active member of the community. Rachel was the long-time love of Lee Nigel Godden, drummer for the Bill Grisolia Band (the eponymous ongoing musical project of my former fiance and lifelong friend) and the innermost of the innermost inner circle we ran with in LBC during the 2002-2007 era known as the Golden Age of Long Beach.
What am I remembering about Rachel today? First, the way her hands looked while examining my dog Sammy, a tiny Shih Tzu in medical distress - competent, cool, calm, careful, deliberate and effective. She showed up at my home minutes after receiving a tearful late-night call from me and upon more than one occasion took care of injuries, diseases and other maladies. It was in her arms our cat died after a horrible accident, it was her mobile med kit (locked and double-locked, always securely stored) that comforted and cured.
I wonder now how much that mobile med kit had to do with any other problems she may have been having. I remember seeing her overwhelmed by caring for others and almost too exhausted to care for herself. I remember partying with her and the rest of the band members and their significant others - me and Bill, Lee and Rachel, Chap and Julie...and upon occasion, Rachel moving in and out of consciousness quickly and unexpectedly, almost as if she was seizing from a single glass of wine. Lee would caretake. The show must go on.
Feeling the sadness of knowing a great light has left this world. Her luminosity was always extraordinary, her ability to rise from exhaustion and carry on like a radiant queen, the goddess of healing, the vessel of boundless compassion ... did that weaken her heart, did it give way in the end because she gave it all to everyone else, all the time, without saving anything for herself?