Fighting Seems Like Death Sometimes

Death Valley Sunrise: DSC_02851

Image by krakovsky via Flickr

I wear no make-up, my hair is dirty and uncombed, no pink lipstick to brighten my face or the empty feeling in my soul. The clothes I wear today are shapeless, I am invisible, but you can still see me.  There are no smiles or light flirtations slipping from my lips, no gurgling sounds of interest and empathy. There are no words, not one single syllable. I am inside myself.

There are no idioms to soothe me, there are no thoughts to brighten me, I am falling slowly from the top of a cliff. I am not skydiving with dazzling energy and lightness, seeking thrills. It’s a slow death, seeing the images that have haunted me as if I was watching a silent movie. There is no black and there is no white, only dark gray. Those who thought I had it all, I have nothing today. Am I loved for who I am unconditionally? That is how I love you.

You and I are so much alike that when it is good it feels like bursting happiness and beaming sunshine and when we fight, it is the bottom of a dark and painful hell. If I could have it any other way, I would. We are forever bound with love and we share a heart. I feel myself falling into murky waters of unknown depths and destiny. What would you say at my funeral if it was today?  Would you say a prayer, read a poem, talk from your heart? Would you try to be stoic and fight back the tears or would you openly weep as I would for you? I would throw myself into the musky dirt to lie beside you if something happened to you; I would not want to live.

You have no idea how much you hurt me and yet even if I try to explain it to you, you deny it vehemently. Like two fighters in a ring, no one listening, both talking, fighting, an emotional blow to you, to me. There is no winner, everybody loses when they fight, all you get from fighting is pain. Will you learn later on that staying and talking through things are better than running away? Time will have to teach you that because I have tried and failed.

At the same time, do you not know that I love you with a special love reserved for no one else? You have always occupied that place in my heart, I love you more than I love my own life;  I would leave the world and disappear if you could guarantee me that I would never again see that sad, woeful expression on your face again. I would do that for you; I would do that for me too. In my heart and soul, I know that before I saved myself, I would save you first.

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My First Experience with Death

Heaven

Grief Lasts A Lifetime

When I was very young my best friend Claudine and I sat on the floor of my bedroom and played with my two turtles. Apparently I injured the turtle ACCIDENTALLY. I didn’t know it at the time because my father played doctor and I remember the turtle’s frail neck had been wrapped with white bandages. He smelled like the red, antiseptic medicine that my mom used on my skinned knees. I don’t remember being particularly upset over the sudden demise of the turtle but I do remember that my dad, who of course knew it was dead, pretended to nurse him back to health, for me.
That same loving man, my father, died ten years ago. He died New Year’s Eve 2001 an hour before my parents’ wedding anniversary on January 1st. I remember that horrible night in excruciating detail, I was sitting on my bed and the phone rang and it was my mother. “It’s over, it’s done” she said and I sobbed for what seemed forever and grieved for a very long time. I still miss my dad, I will always miss him. Sometimes I do get messages or signs from him and I believe in that. How do you recover from someone’s death? You don’t. Not ever. There will be a new world for you and it will be divided into before the death and after. You are now a member of a new club for adult children who have lost a parent and it’s not a club you ever wanted to join. You have no choice. Intense pain and grief get less frequent with time but there will always be moments, at least for me, when the pain feels fresh and raw. I was in Targets six weeks ago and I automatically turned into the Father’s Day card section. I remember I stood still and openly gasped. I had to hold on to my cart to steady myself. Only then did I stop and remember I had no one to send it to. I didn’t have a dad who was alive anymore in the physical world. Tears filled my eyes and I left the store quickly; my eyes were so blurry it was hard to see.

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The World Just Changes A Little Bit

Burning match (cerilla ardiendo)

Image by John C. Shaw via Flickr

I just received news from my sister that her friend Allison passed away last night. I knew Allison but had only met her once or twice. She was a very warm and charming woman who was my sister’s neighbor. She leaves behind her husband and a daughter, the age of my nephew, Jon, 21. She died of breast cancer.

I have a friend that lives around the corner who is also dying of cancer. She too had breast cancer and then brain cancer. We don’t ask questions, they are a very private family. No matter what her condition is she tries to attend, her children’s basketball games or important events. She doesn’t care about being seen in a wheelchair or weighing barely 90 pounds or the fact that her mouth dragged down and over to the side, why should she? She is one of the best moms I have ever met. She will be with her three children as long as a single breath is left in her body.

Two years ago, when she was still able to walk, unassisted, my neighbor and I would each run to our windows to keep track of her. If we saw her walking alone, one of us would crush our feet into sneakers and pretend that we had walked too, and join her to keep her company. She wouldn’t ask for help, but we knew that we couldn’t let our friend walk unsteadily alone. She refused to use a cane; but she was happy for the company; we were happy to see her.

If we made “extra” food for our families, we would simply drop platters of freshly roasted chicken, baked ziti and meatballs at her door with a loaf of warm french bread or a tray of fudge brownies. When she could only drink liquids my new specialties became soup; peach soup in the summer, chicken soup in the fall. They never asked for meals but they always welcomed it. We would call before we brought a meal over and ask if it was a convenient time; sometimes we left it on the wooden bench near the door. We never saw our friend on these visits; we didn’t have to.

My best friend from high school, Paula, had breast cancer and finally now, after about 6 or more hospitalizations, a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, infections and reconstructive surgery, she is trying to heal. It has been a long road for her. Another friend, Margie, with thyroid cancer, said she doesn’t think about celebrating her five-year anniversary of being cancer free; her oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering said that “once you have cancer, you are never cancer free.” I don’t want to believe that but it is sobering.

I am sorry for my friends, I worry in advance for all the important women in my life. I am grateful for every healthy minute of our lives, and I understand how fragile and unpredictable life is. I am incredibly grateful. The world changes a bit, doesn’t it, when another person dies, when a soul leaves the body. It’s like a candle or a match, one after another, forcibly being blown out while it is still burning bright. It seems that their lives are extinguished way too early, too violently and too harshly. Snuffed, taken away, burnt, dead. “I knew she was going to die” my sister said sadly to me” but somehow it isn’t the same until it really happens.”

Dedicated to all cancer survivors and those we lost who live on in our hearts.