Monday, June 22, 2015

I Remember Rachel for Her Ferocity for Life, Not Cancer

I first wrote about my amazing friend Rachel "Lings" Yingling three years ago, and today likely won't be the last time. She was among the best and my favorite people I have met. Besides her inexplicably odd-shaped feet which she didn't mind showing off, we could all benefit from acquiring her characteristics: passionate, positive, resilient, adventurous, alive. Fiercely alive.

This is for Rachel.

As published on The Huffington Post

Rachel Yingling sitting against rock in West Virginia in October 2014
The skeet whooshed towards the heavens. My right eye stared ahead with the barrel flush. I had developed a rhythm with the saucer: After it launched I waited until it reached a precise point in my field of vision and then I pulled the trigger. Without patience, my aim would be low and the saucer would continue its original trajectory until it fell to the ground. So I waited and then, click, the target erupted, its orange pieces blending with the sky like a perfect match on the color wheel.

I hit 11 of 25 skeets. My friend Rachel, who I'm sure shot guns growing up based on my generalization of people from Arkansas and who say things like, "My drinking water had tadpoles," only shot two. She hit her first, missed the next 23, and ended with a bang. Rachel sat against a rock and watched others in our group shoot. She smiled and now said things like, "I have not spent time outside in days. It is beautiful."

There was not a cloud above us and Rachel, a Fulbright scholar, began telling me a story about the sky. If people had never been told the sky was blue then they may see it as white, another color, or simply a void. Those people may have as much trouble wrapping their heads around the blue sky as I have around not seeing it as blue.

I can't see Rachel in a different light, either. When I met her 2.5 years ago I saw a radiant and beautiful 27-year-old whose attitude matched her use of exclamation points. She told me stories back then, too, like the meaning of interrobang, which is a combination of an exclamation point and a question mark, and how she was diagnosed at 26 with stage 3 colon cancer that would later spread to her ovaries and omentum, "upgrading" the cancer to stage 4. Rachel would stay on treatment forever, in a concept that is new to me and the way I had "finished" cancer treatment when I was a teen: Rachel was living with cancer. Keep reading I Remember Rachel for Her Ferocity for Life, Not Cancer.


Dad said...

Rachael would be delighted with your powerful eulogy about her love of life and her brave battle against cancer and death. She was clearly a special person.

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

Thank you very much, Dad.