Love, Duty and a Friend’s Death

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Amanda Neuhoff of Dallas was a close friend of my wife, Devin, as they grew up together in Knoxville, Tenn., and so she became dear to me. She was 51 and the mother of four children when she died of brain cancer in June.

Mandy, as childhood friends called her, was always the life of the party. She lived by her own code of attitudinal upgrade: Hard times were good, good times were great, and great times were, in her words—adjectives no longer being sufficient—“awesomeness.” She was full of love.

Over the years I grew close to her husband, Byron. He had a quiet reserve about him. He cherished his wife and basked in her high-wattage glow, but dutifulness was his defining trait.

I thought they were opposites. But her suffering and death, and his reaction to them, taught me that while I wasn’t wrong about my friends the Neuhoffs, I wasn’t completely right.

When the cancer diagnosis first confronted her last August, Amanda colorfully described it to friends as a “throat punch.” Every day she fought for her life, but she never clung to it. Borrowing from 38 Special, a mainstay on her music play lists, she held on loosely, but didn’t let go until she was ready.

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