A story about my friend, Krysytna Patyk-Ryback - RIP

"Every sorrow can be born if you put them in a story."  Isak Dinesen

Krystyna Patyk-Ryback

January 10, 1949 - January 16, 2015

We met in the spring of 1984.  Krys was the office manager at a B2B advertising agency on Ontario in the Loop.  I was the newly hired production manager.   We were both single and quickly bonded over many things.  It was the beginning of a friendship that would last 30+ years.

Me, my mom and Krys - 1984 - Notice Da' Coach's signature!

Me, my mom and Krys - 1984 - Notice Da' Coach's signature!

We found we had a lot in common. We both enjoyed happy hours (dating us, I know), clothes, shoes and purses, single men, the Bears (and 1984 was a GREAT time to be a Bears' fan) dancing, nightlife, dinners out, especially Italian, especially Lino's, the restaurant below the office and Villagio's, her newest favorite in Roselle, pets, candles, red lipstick and nail polish, Grey Goose, Prosecco, calamari, vacations, and so much more.

Although Krys had three sisters and a brother, all in the area, I had none and no family in the area.  In the early years of our friendship, she became like a sister to me and she and her family opened their arms to me.  I remember sharing so many holidays with them all; especially Christmas.  What great food - Polish favorites like pirogi's and kolatches, sauerkraut and sausage.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it all.

I watched her nieces and nephews grow up, marry and have children of their own.  When my daughter, Katie Scarlett was born in 1991, Krys quickly adopted her as an honorary niece.  And when Kate and I opened our home to an exchange student, Vero Castro Lopez in 2007, Krys opened her home too.  

Krys and Kate - 1994

Krys and Kate - 1994

Auntie Krissie was the best aunt a young girl could ask for.  She and Kate became very close, sharing pool time and sleep overs and eventually shoes and purses. When Krys married Scott in July of 1995, Kate, then 4 was a flower girl at their wedding.  Scott became Uncle Scott.  I know I speak for Kate when I say that she feels blessed to have had them both in her life.

Through the years, we traveled together, shared in important life events like weddings, births and funerals.  We supported each other when we each lost our moms.  We celebrated at each other's birthdays and weddings.  We usually talked on the phone weekly and saw each other frequently.  Catching up over dinner became a favorite past time and we knew all the restaurants between our homes.

We shared coffee and conversation, drinks and ball games, barbecues and friends.  I knew her friends.  She knew mine.  We helped each other through moves, medical adventures, my divorce and her return to the work force after caring for her mom.  

We also argued fiercely.  We were both strong willed, opinionated women who would rarely hesitate to speak our truths.  It sometimes caused conflict.  We didn't always agree.  But we always remained friends.  Sometimes a bit of time and distance had to pass, but we always came back together accepting and appreciating each other for exactly who we were.

Krys was generous beyond measure and always found a way to support me even when she didn't agree with me.  I always appreciated her honesty even when it made the things she said difficult to hear.  I never doubted her love for me.  I always knew I could call Krys at any time and she'd be there.  Krys and Scott both, have always welcomed me with hugs and kisses.  

Krys was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, Level 4 on Friday, November 7.  The diagnosis came out of the blue after only a few weeks of doctors and testing that originated with what she thought was a bee sting on her foot sometime in early October.  Although she started radiation and chemotherapy almost immediately, it didn't touch this very aggressive type of cancer.  We all knew the long term prognosis wasn't good, but Krys was convinced that she was going to beat this.  She had things she wanted to do; items on her bucket list still left to experience.

I know.  We shared many bucket list items.  Losing her leaves a huge void in my life as she was a dear, dear friend, and also a companion with whom I hoped to share many of my bucket list items.  Dinners, trips, ball games, a wedding and showers for Kate...all things in my future that will be experienced without Krys by my side.

"To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal, to hold it ... against your bones knowing your own life depends on it, and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go."  ~Mary Oliver

I've told Kate recently that loss is the price we pay for love.  I'm not sorry that I loved my friend Krystyna.  I'm only sorry that I have to learn to let her go so soon.  It's not fair.  I know, mom.  "Who ever said life is fair?"  It's not.  That's why today I will make my way through the formal good bye of a wake and tomorrow, a funeral.  But still, I cry out, "It's not fair" because it's just not.

I've been blessed, dear friend, to hold you close against my bones.  Now the time has come for me to let you go.  I release your bones to the heavens where I hope you find loved ones waiting for you and peace.  Don't worry about us here.  We have each other. We will take care of each other.  Watch us as we honor you by sharing the love that you so generously shared with us.

I'll love you always, Krystyna and your memories will always be among those I hold most dear.  Thank you for loving me and for the time we shared that allowed so many wonderful memories to be created.


For those of you who wish to recognize her death in some way, I offer these suggestions.

Do not sit in a room remembering the one who died.  Rather go out and make memories with the living.

Do not send flowers to the dead.  Rather, offer flowers to the living.

Do not share a meal or a toast with a roomful for strangers.  Rather, choose never to eat alone, but always with the living. 

Do not speak words of praise of the dead.  Rather speak your love, appreciation and gratitude every day to the living.

Do not commission prayers or other religious rituals.   Rather, experience the wonders of life with the living.

Do not write a check for research.  Rather, share the most precious gift, the gift of yourself with the living.

Do not gather with semi-strangers to morn a loss.  Rather, celebrate every joy you receive with the living.

Do these things frequently, whenever an opportunity presents itself.  And if it doesn't present itself frequently, create your own opportunity.

This life is not a dress rehearsal.  You cannot count on even a second take, let alone an opening night or a finale.  Grab hungrily and with gusto every moment this life has to offer.  Feel the good of life.  Feel the bad of life.   They are both equal gifts.  And you cannot have one without the other.