For 11 years we lived in Rockville, just under an hour’s drive from our current home. Our kids did a lot of growing up during that time, keeping us busy with both school and extracurricular commitments. Through our children’s activities we met a lot of good people, many of whom became much more than nodding acquaintances; some became close friends.
For the first time in my adult life I found myself part of a fairly defined group. We all had kids around the same age, attending mostly the same schools, and playing the same sports. For five years, several of the women got together for a regular Bunco night — yes, Bunco — and we had a blast. I even continued traveling down the road the first Monday of the month after we’d moved up to Woodsboro; and although I didn’t cherish the late nights, I did the women with whom I had a chance to socialize, and maybe win a couple of bucks off of.
It’s now nearly seven years since we relocated to Frederick County, and although many of the connections have dwindled, I’ve kept in touch with a handful of the ladies from the old neighborhood with whom I was particularly close. When I recently got a text to call one of them, no matter how late it was, I pretty much knew what I was going to hear. One of our Bunco Babes was gone.
Cassandra Kovacs left her family and friends at about 10:30 a.m. on April 11, 2014. She was younger than me by a few years. I didn’t know by how many until she passed. Although we were all constantly running into each other and sharing stories of our lives and times, we rarely discussed our ages. What does age matter if you’re busy living your life? And we were certainly all busy living ours.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when I reconnected with one of my buddies, for whom I occasionally do some work, that I found out about Cassandra’s condition. She had just taken a turn for the worse and was being removed from the cancer treatment trial she’d been in. It had become a matter of time. I was shocked. While Cassandra was first diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer while I was still an active member of the old circle, I’d no idea it had metastasized in more recent months, making its way into her bones.
If losing her children is every mother’s greatest fear, being taken from them before she’s had a chance to see them grown is every mother’s greatest dread. Cassandra leaves two teenagers, a boy and a girl, both in high school, both terrific kids. She also leaves behind the man who fell for her on their first date, which went on for hours, and in some ways never ended. They were all at her side when Cassandra quietly slipped away, surrounded by love.
I was far from close to Cassandra, but I constantly marveled at how much power there was in this one lovely, intensely focused woman. She was truly a life force, a breathing vortex of energy and strength. Cassandra will be missed, by her family, her friends, and her students at the school where she taught until she could no longer keep up with the demands of a demanding career.
Her passing’s an inescapable reminder of how vulnerable and mortal we all are, and how vitally important it is to appreciate every moment and make the most of every day — just as I’ve been told she worked hard to do, right up until the end.
May Cassandra rest in peace. May her family and friends find comfort in her memory, in thoughts of the times they all shared, and in the knowledge that she lives on in the hearts of those who loved her, who shared her smiles and her tears, and walked with her through this life.
Susan writes from her homebase of Woodsboro. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.