I’ve been feeling exceedingly sad today, and the last couple of days, and I had a few ideas of what might be contributing, including one of my dearest, most beloved friends about to have surgery for cancer for the third time. It’s also coming up on the anniversary of my father’s death, which continues to bring grief to the surface, even after 48 years.
Then I remembered that it was three years ago yesterday that Elizabeth was in the ICU, and had her second, emergency brain surgery. The day before that was her initial one, which we learned was largely unsuccessfully at removing the large tumor that had not responded to chemo. Three years ago today was the day she had a stroke, and could no longer move her legs or her left arm.
And now, it’s making more sense…why I’m feeling like once again, it’s the end of the world as I know it. (Which always reminds me of this great song, which I start hearing whenever I think that phrase: https://youtu.be/Z0GFRcFm-aY)
It’s amazing how the unconscious and the body remember these anniversaries, even when the mind doesn’t.
Starting in January of this year, these months have been both amazingly wonderful, and extremely challenging, which are both reasons why I haven’t been writing much here. Two close family members have had worrisome diagnoses and unresolved health issues. A friend’s husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. By the time it was diagnosed, it had already spread throughout his body, and he died within weeks. Another friend’s niece, about Elizabeth’s age, had been diagnosed with a form of leukemia in the fall. I watched intently, from a distance, as she progressed through brutal treatment, to an amazing remission, only to be followed immediately by her heart failing from the chemo. She died about three months ago, at the age of 18.
As I mentioned, I’ve also been watching from afar as one of my best friends is dealing with cancer, doing amazingly well through over 18 months of chemo, radiation, surgeries…showing resilience and strength that is so like him, and with his wisdom, compassion and loving presence completely intact.
Each of these experiences has impacted me deeply, bringing emotions and memories to the surface that I sometimes have the luxury of allowing to remain below. Not forgotten, but not front and center either. I no longer can distance myself. I no longer have illusions that everyone will be fine; that people don’t die because they are young, or seemed healthy just last week. Of course I knew this before, intellectually, and somewhat internally as well, since my father had died when he was 30, my uncle at age 21. But I was very young then, and losing one’s child to cancer is like nothing else, not even the loss of a parent.
Almost 3 years…
Almost 3 years since Elizabeth died and I don’t cry every day. I think of her more often as she is now, appreciating her presence in my life. I spend less time now thinking of her as she was in her last couple of years of life, at age 21 and 22, less time longing for another phone call or meeting for a latte and a scone… I have more random memories of both her and J, from all different ages, some joyful, some regretful, some proud, some guilty – more what feel like “regular” mother memories.
me and Elizabeth, ~ 2008
me and Elizabeth, ~ 2008
A week ago though, a friend had gifted me with a trip to a spa. As I was relaxing in the soaking pool, a mother about my age entered with her daughter, who looked to be in her early twenties. Their easy communication and manner reminded me a great deal of me and Elizabeth, and it took all I had to keep from sobbing right there, the loss so fresh and great. It also reminded me that it is in those quiet, reflective times that the emotions have more space to come to the surface. Much of my life is occupied by working with clients, listening to stories about their lives, reading about other’s lives on Facebook, blogs and books, and on and on.
It’s easy to fill up all the minutes of the day, and why I treasure my times of reflection and meditation. When alone in the mornings on Maui, I play Pandora on shuffle while I make my breakfast smoothie, present with my thoughts, with the other worlds and connection and messages that come through the music. It gives me a few minutes of this time for reflection and connection. When here on Molokai, I spend time in the ocean, watching the clouds and feeling Elizabeth, feeling her presence in nature, talking to her and feeling her response. It’s not enough, but I’m so grateful for these precious moments.