Two special friends came to mind today as I pondered who to write about in all my friends I have across the United States. These two precious ladies came up: Candy McMillan Vargas and Kathi Raver Miller. Both have died from cancer, but their influence in my life lingers years after their deaths. They both helped me soar and succeed in ways I never imagined! Kathi died in 2009, and Candy died in 2011. Here’s how Candy touched me so deeply, and tomorrow I will tell Kathi and my story!
Candy McMillan Vargas
Candy was born on July 8, 1952, and my brother, Harold (Bub) was born May 25, 1952. Our mothers enjoyed being young pregnant women together, telling hilarious stories about getting their car stuck in the mud with their enormous bellies. Candy’s dad and my dad were best friends. So, we grew up together.
For many years, Candy and I were the only girls in Branson, Colorado, a small ranching town. So, I remember my early playtime with her—donning our mom’s dresses, hats, and shoes. Then we threw purses over our shoulders. Those female items transported us to be Ethel and Lucy for sure.
So much of my childhood memories center on Candy and her family. They owned the grocery store in Branson, so we visited often. Also, back then, people visited each other’s houses in the evening.
Candy moved away about the time she was twelve, but we didn’t lose contact. One morning she arrived at our doorstep at 6:00 AM, having just jumped off the train to come and see us. We felt like she was family.
We ended up going to Trinidad State Junior College together her last year, then she moved to Pueblo, Colorado. Candy was maid-of-honor at my first and second wedding. I think I exhausted her out for the next couple.
She married Michael Vargas in Pueblo, and I was her matron-of-honor. Then they moved to Denver, just a few short blocks from where we lived. I celebrated with her and Michael when their children, Sonia and Shane, were born.
When I graduated in 1986 from Colorado State University, Mom and Dad hosted a major shindig at a bar I frequented often, and Candy catered the delicious meal. She also partied like a crazy lady with me to celebrate my big day.
Candy listened to all my woes about my first husband and our marriage. After our divorce and my graduation from Fort Collins, Colorado, I lived with her and Michael for six months to get established in Denver. She always came to my rescue.
When I moved to Raton, New Mexico, she continued having me cut her hair every six weeks and lined up enough friends to get perms and cuts to make my trip profitable. (I was a beautician for 14 years before becoming a teacher.).
In 2005, when Lela, my sister-in-law died, we had the funeral and burial in Branson. Candy brought a tent to set up out in the backyard because of the hot July weather and helped Mom and I handle the meal after the service.
Diagnosed with kidney cancer, a group of her friends bought these “Team Candy” t-shirts to support her. She loved the idea.
Candy died September 13, 2011, and I had been experiencing some strange health episodes. The night she died, I had one of the worst ones yet. Needing to call 911, I went to the hospital. They found nothing identifiably wrong, but my doctor strongly suggested I not go to her funeral on September 19. So, I didn’t, but I took the day off from work and had a private ceremony I prepared at home by myself. That broke my heart not to honor her by attending! I will always regret not saying goodbye formally to her and her family I love so much.
Candy’s hilarious sense-of-humor, her delicious home-cooked meals and her deep friendship remind me daily of my dear friend. I still see her sparkling eyes and hear her contagious laughter and know that I am a better person for having known her and loved by her. Thank you, Candy, for everything you did.
Do you have a best friend? Have you thanked him or her lately?
Here’s the Gratitude Log again if you need it. I shared a couple days ago.
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