Sherri and I first met in 1986.  We were both short-term contract employees working seasonally at Grand Canyon, AZ.  Sherri was from Minnesota while I was a Kentuckian.  We met just hours after I arrived simply because we sat beside each other at dinner and she introduced herself to me and we didn’t stop chatting for hours.

So we ended up doing a lot of hiking that summer and made plans to do a cross-canyon hike at the end of our contracts.  It was a nearly 50 mile hike from the South Rim, to the bottom of the canyon, up to the North Rim, back to the bottom and back to the South Rim.  This was an inordinately ambitious undertaking given that neither of us were seasoned hikers and didn’t really have proper equipment.  But we trained all summer, and ultimately did the 50 miles in  3 nights/4 days.    I guess that is when we proved to each other that we could travel well together.

I was her maid of honor when she got married, which was just days before i left for England to work with horses.  Time passed, lives changed, I moved a couple of times, Sherri had a couple of kids and we eventually lost track of each other.

In the summer of 2007 an interstate bridge collapsed in Minnesota.  It was a heavily traveled bridge and it collapsed during evening rush hour.  Around that same time, a sightseeing helicopter crashed while touring Grand Canyon.  Both events made me wonder about my long lost Minnesota friend so I began searching the internet.

Sherri had an unusual last name before she got married and I had a vague memory of her being a teacher.  So it didn’t take very long to find someone by her name teaching at a Catholic university in St. Paul.  I emailed.

It was indeed my old friend Sherri.  After a few cursory emails we made arrangements to chat via telephone on a sunday afternoon.  We talked for what seemed like forever, exchanging info and filling in all the missing details that accompany 20 years apart.  It was on that day that Sherri told me she had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

I held the phone so close to my ear it hurt.  And I listened to her describe the onset of symptoms, the diagnosis, the treatment, and the expected outcome.  “I know this isn’t going to kill me,” she concluded.  I accepted that.

We stayed in touch over the past few years and in early 2012 I hatched a plan to see the northern lights.  It was a bucket list item for me and I have been checking those off consistently since turning 50.  I discovered that Iceland offered excellent opportunities to witness the lights and then realized that Icelandaire offered direct flights from a regional airport about 20 minutes from my house.  I had already decided that I would probably have to make this trip on my own since it was a winter trip to one of the coldest places on the planet.   I casually mentioned it to Sherri and she immediately  interrupted me to ask if she could go with me.   DING DING DING DING DING DING!  Of course, I would welcome a good friend who loves cold weather and lives in cold weather and has mastered cold weather.  I’m a Floridian who has already forgotten everything I ever knew about snow and ice.

So, Sherri and I began making our plans.  We emailed and skyped and exchanged packing lists and all along Sherri would keep me up to date with current cancer  treatments and how she was feeling.  Always concluding with “I know this isn’t going to kill me”.  And I believed her because I had no reason not to.Image

So we planned our trip.