On September 8 my inspire.com friend, Lia Orlando, left this planet for good. She was 46, and had battled NSCLC since the summer of 2009. Her grieving husband, Mark, let her online friends know the next day. I read the news after I arrived in Utah on the first day of our vacation. I’d been thinking of her all day on the 8th, and planned to email her the next day from the road. Although I only knew Lia from her spunky online posts and emails, I still can’t think about her death without crying. I find this embarrassing; I feel that I don’t really have the right to mourn someone I knew so slightly. Embarrassing or not, I’ve put off writing about her long enough.
Lia’s feisty and caring nature attracted quite a few friends. She loved camping and being on the water, and looked forward to returning to outdoorsy pursuits. Robust in spirit even at her sickest, she made us believe she’d eventually lick the cancer. When she wrote in July of her doctor “using the H word” (recommending she enter hospice care), it pissed me off. It seemed they were writing her off prematurely, in essence burying this vibrant ball of energy alive. I’d managed to ignore how far her disease had progressed and how battered and tired the two-year fight had left her body. Whether or not we were ready to let go of her was never the issue; it was her fight, not ours. She fought hard, but when the fight was over, it was over. During her July hospitalization, we started referring to her as “Tinkerbelle,” telling her we were clapping for her to keep going. We never imagined her as the dainty, Disney-esque version of Tink but the passionate hellraiser J.M. Barrie wrote into existence in 1904. This 2011 version was just as playful, but was larger, tattooed, and rode motorcycles.
Whether she was wood sprite or woods-woman, I’m honored to have known her, even in passing.
You managed to fly off, Lia, but we’ll never stop clapping for you.