Noel Meeks – Cowboy Angel
Not many people have heard about Noel Meeks, my cowboy angel and he was an impact in my life while I battled stage 3 breast cancer and some other hardships such as a boyfriend cheating on me and a knee replacement put in crooked. I had a lot of pain in my heart and my body.
I miss Noel. He was a cowboy, a cancer warrior and friend.
He was at the end of his battle with cancer while I was heading towards victory in mine with stage 3 breast cancer. My body hurt everywhere from all the surgeries during my first week at the clinic in Arizona. Getting there was hell because the flight was delayed from Seattle by several hours and I had just had knee surgery and my pain meds were with the luggage. I did cry from the pain and I so I was shy at first when I got to this clinic. Noel was a cowboy that never talked to me for a week. Later I found out it was because he felt bad for the condition I was in. I just laid down, hurting with stitches in my leg, a broken heart from my boyfriend cheating and the fear of having stage 3 cancer. I was a mess. I was also mourning the loss of my aunt who had lost her battle to cancer the day before I set out to AZ. I was just sad and broken inside and out.
About one week into treatment at this clinic which no longer exists, Noel and I sat outside on a patio in the sun several feet apart from each other soaking up the rays. I would write in my journal and keep to myself. One day he asked me “So what do you write in that little book of yours” I was writing everything I was feeling and my experience there. That is how our friendship started. So after about an hour of yelling back and forth to one another attempting to start a conversation with the great distance of our chairs being so far we both laughed, and he finally moved his chair closer.
We talked real with each other. He trusted me slowly. I remember a winding staircase outside in the back of the building that went up to the rooftop. I stood there one day looking up, and I remember hanging on to the railing, just daydreaming about the future and my past. I was suddenly snapped out of my thoughts when I hear Noel yell out, “Damn, woman, you want to go up those stairs with your leg like that?!” Don’t do it alone.
I said, “Well, I do but I won’t!” I then told him the truth of what I wanted. I said, ” But I want to see the desert from up high on that roof and it felt like a freedom of cancer. I knew it would feel like climbing a mountain.
He hobbled up from his chair. He was always wobbly on his feet because of the chemotherapy causing numbness. He said he had chemo brain and chemo feet! Regardless, he was eager to help me. Slowly we got me climbing those stairs, it hurt, but we did it. The view was amazing. The desert was so vast and beautiful in its special way, entirely different from the lushness of Seattle. It’s little moments like that which can transcend you and restore a somewhat diminished spirit. I felt taller, freer and more capable just by breathing in the view.
I thought about Noel a lot during those days. A real cowboy with a ranch in Wyoming. He said he had 120 horses and that one day when I got well I could come to ride. He was stoic and old enough to be my father. I guess you could say he was the strong silent type.
I could make this man laugh, though, and that was some feat considering his condition. He was very sick.
He took me to Las Vegas, so I could be with my daughter and pushed me around Vegas in a wheelchair. The visual is funny. I had been dependent on a walker from the knee surgery and could not put weight because of the pns in my knees. He insisted on walking without a cane he usually used and stumbled a lot. He came up with a brilliant plan to push me in a wheelchair through the casinos and I think he used the wheelchair to stable himself a bit. I worried about him, but he said, you can’t walk, and I want you with me because you make me laugh.
He talked about death and life and I was quiet and a little insecure. He talked about his sister and his hometown. I couldn’t actually see how many times he stumbled, but I know he did. He would laugh and talk and say, “Now see, isn’t this better than going back to Washington so soon and dealing with a bad break-up” You need to laugh girl. I did laugh, and I worried about him overdoing it. I was out of my element, and it was good for me because there were only two other people that knew how to do that with me. My best friend Heather Rayburn and my daughter Jessica. I was terrified of dying myself yet we were laughing and for that time we were quite alive!
I just have so many stories I could tell about friends who became family and in this picture by the time it was taken, Noel Meeks was my family. Time is irrelevant when it comes to bonding. It is the impact and what is happening between two individuals that matters. It is trust built and how long that takes to happen. I trusted Noel and I know he trusted me. There is more about this man, so much more that I get tears just knowing that I was spending time with a man that accepted death with a smile. He was amazing.
Noel lost his battle, and I remember I was just about to mail him my victory photo but needed to get his address. He had a land line at the ranch and his cell phone. In a flash, I remembered something that loomed over me. When we parted ways, he said,” If he were ever unreachable by both phones if I were to call him, that meant he had finally gone to meet his maker. I dialed the first number, and it was disconnected, my hands were shaking as I dialed the ranch phone. I just heard a disconnect recording. I researched and learned that he had passed away.
Noel had said the last time we spoke about me coming out to see his horses and meet his sister that he did not want me to see him again because he wanted me just to remember him the pleasant way it was in Arizona and Las Vegas. I didn’t want to believe he was gone, so I called around, and I confirmed it later that he was gone. The short time and memories together flooded me. I may not have known about Noels whole life, but I know he “loved” I experienced his courage, I experienced him defending me at one point and saw that he was not a quitter. He accepted “what was.” like a gentleman, and he just amazed me!
I experienced him at the end of his life. He knew it was ending, and this man had dignity. He never criticized me, and he always lifted me up. He always talked to me as if his messages were something he never wanted me to forget. It meant everything to him that I understand my value and remember his words. He said it was my determination and strength that would save my life, and he said, “your strength and forthrightness will threaten men”. He said, for me not to take that the wrong way. And that it was better to be wise and strong than stupid and broken.
He said,” You are going to live a healthy happy life and love again. So promise me you won’t settle for bullsh**t from guys. He said, “They know what they are doing and pretend that they don’t. He told me to take care of myself.
So now…I get it. He was right. I believe we meet people for a reason. Noel knew I had a boyfriend that was not faithful to me during my battle as we kept talking day after day. When I finally told him my boyfriend’s name and that he was from Wyoming he mentioned he was also from Wyoming. Noel knew him and his family. He had gone to school with my boyfriends mother. We both just about fell out of our seats. I was from Seattle he was from Wyoming, we both traveled far to Arizona to fight and try to save our lives. There was only five patients total.
He inspired me and made me laugh! Noel Meeks, I still hear your solid cowboy advice! I will never give up that soft side of me, but I have wizened up, it does take a while. I will stay the way I am for the most part, but I have learned to keep my eyes wide open. Your picture with me in the desert on our last day there is a reminder to stay true to me. We covered some ground in our conversations, and we different people by the time they took this picture for us. We had experienced a growth spurt of the soul.
I have had so many of my paths cross like this where things like this happened to me. I think of the coincidence of meeting and how God brings us together for our journey lessons. I am an optimist, and we can learn or complain. Noel, you were a change angel for me. The memories are what kept me going on a good path all my life. I am ready for life’s next lesson, and I know it does not have to mean a break-up or be at the expense of me having a broken heart. I want to keep growing in love and compassion. I never question why my life was hard because we can always be in 100% more difficult circumstances if we dare to think about it. I say, let’s count our blessings and just work through it, hang on to your integrity and try to get a new perspective. After all, it’s the only thing we have real control over.
Noel, you were right, I’m different, quirky as you put it, some people don’t get me, and I don’t mind it anymore because my path is much clearer and it takes a unique person to lead. I don’t want to be like everyone else at all. I want to be different.
RIP my dear friend, I will see you later, much later Noel Meeks