By Barbara Vander Werff


When my BFF, Sandy, was in hospice, she had a sense of peace. Her disease was devastating and a shock to everyone. After her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, she died four weeks later. For those of us she left behind, our profound loss of a friend, mother, grandmother, and wife would be felt far beyond the memorial service.

I looked around my house at all the things she had given me over the years. She knew me. They fit into my life, into my environment, to help define who I was. Other things were bought when we were together, while shopping or on adventures. Sometimes picked out by her, sometimes me, with a nod from her in approval. Sometimes she would look to see if another was available for us to share in a treasure found. Now, they were memories. It made me anxious to think, what now? Who would I explore with, talk with, call when I could not find my way? She was never coming back.

But then I thought about her sense of peace. She knew what was important, she lived a good life, she had been a good person. She had given her all to her family, friends, work, passions, those things she believed in, and most of all, to herself. She was ready to find her peace in death because she had found it in life. The initial diagnosis was heartbreaking, but she accepted it and moved forward. Toward death?

Besides memories of my friend, scattered throughout my house are my collections. As I look deeper, my life unfolds and I wonder if I feel at peace. I have pictures of family, collections of cameras, Boston Terrier figurines, and books. It is my journey of many years to find peace.

Because, what my friend has shown me, is this: if we do not achieve peace in life, how will we ever achieve peace in death?

© 2022 Barb Vander Werff

Barbara Vander Werff grew up in Randolph, Wisconsin, before moving to Madison to go to college and work in health care at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. She did some technical writing for clinical textbooks in diagnostics, ultrasonography, and radiology management. Now retired, she is enjoying writing about life. Where have we ended up, and why?

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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2 Responses to Peace

  1. That is such a beautiful sentiment Barbara. There is a saying by Schumacher which says something like,
    if you travel the world over in search of the beautiful, you will never find it unless you take beauty with you.
    If you swap the word peace for beauty they are similar thoughts.


  2. Christine Labinski says:

    Barb, your beautiful essay about your dear friend Sandy is such an honor to her and your friendship. She was such a good person and truly missed by all. Your describing her peace in such a way makes you want to live your life better. To find that kind of peace, knowing you have done the best you could to be a loving and good person. Such great writing Barb! It was a pleasure and inspiration to read it. Thank you for sharing this.


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