Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cancer, it seems, has become such a part of my life that most days I don't stop and think too much about it and its realities. Being tired, taking horrible medications, traveling to another state to see a doctor on a regular basis, feeling crappy, having less money and more medical bills than I'd like, fear, uncertainty. It's all there, and I am aware of it, but it's been my life for three years and it's become my "normal". So most days I don't stop and examine it all too closely. My life has changed, drastically, and there is nothing that I can do about it except try to remember all that I do have and keep moving forward. But some days it feels like it is all crashing down on me. Some days I look around at others my age and can only see the differences.

I am not at a beginning as so many of my family and friends are, but I am not really at an ending either (at least, I hope not). So where, exactly, is it that I am? Some weird middle area that has no real definition it would seem. Sometimes I feel like I am in a corridor full of doors and as I walk down the hall, door after door closes. Some slam loudly. Others quietly click shut. Still others seem as though I am going to be able to reach them and pass through only to close right in my face. My corridor does, however, have windows that look into each room. I can see, and participate to an extent, in the events behind the closed doors. And that is both blessing and curse. I continue to travel my corridor and I expect that I will someday find, not a doorway that I will be able to enter, but a window that is open... or maybe just a window that I can pry open. And through that window I will find a new path. Maybe a new beginning, maybe an end with a new beginning, but whatever waits through that window is what keeps my feet moving through this corridor of closed door and strange middleness. That window is my hope, but until then, where exactly am I?

More thoughts on this later. Getting late tonight. I must say though, that despite the closed doors and the feeling of displacement, of not belonging, even on the rainiest day there is the hope of an open window.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It has always been a dream of mine to become a knight or a pirate or BOTH. The knight thing I think has to do with the time period and the fact that I'd really like a horse and a sword. The pirate thing I think really has more to do with the ship. I want to sail! I want to sail on a big ship, two masts at least. Of course, if I was a pirate, I don't think I would settle for less than being the captain. Oh, and I get a sword as a pirate too!

My daughter, Kylynn, has jumped right aboard with both of these dreams of mine and I love that. The thing that really makes me smile, though, is how absolutely possible Kylynn believes both the idea of being a pirate and being a knight are. She was just talking about this yesterday and she started off by saying, "Mommy, when we are pirates together..." And then later it was, "When we are knights after we are pirates..." I love that it is when with Kylynn and not if. Kids are great like that.

Kylynn has also been recruiting others to join us as knights and pirates. It is so much fun to listen to her talk to others about these things. It's great also because if we're going to have a large ship as pirates we're going to need a crew. And Kylynn is much like her mom when it comes to being a pirate, she wants to be in charge. She will invite people to be pirates on our ship (meaning hers and mine) and she will sometimes even try to assign them jobs like swabbing the deck or cooking.

But what I really enjoy is listening to Kylynn talk to other children about being a knight or a pirate. Yesterday Kylynn spent the day with her friend, Josh, and she invited him to be a pirate first. Now, Josh likes pirates, so Kylynn didn't have to sell him on the idea at all and they got right into making pirate plans. I didn't catch all the details but I know I heard something about treasure and I swear I heard the word scurvy in the conversation too. And then later in the day the invitation for Josh to be a knight came. Josh is less familiar with knights so Kylynn filled him in on all the details (and believe me, Kylynn has lots of knight details) and soon Josh was ready to sign up, especially if it meant he got a horse and a sword and shield. The conversation on knights went on and shifted a bit to being knights at the Medieval Times dinner/show. Kylynn was explaining to Josh that if they were knights there that their horses would stay at the castle but that they, as knights, would go home every night and sleep at their houses. Josh said that he would want to take his horse home with him which is where the conversation got most amusing. Kylynn kept telling Josh that the horses should stay at the castle and that way someone else would have to clean up their poop (not sure where that logic came from) and Josh kept saying that he wanted to take his horse home. Kylynn asked him how he would take the horse home and Josh said that the horse could go in his car. Kylynn quickly pointed out that a car was too small for a horse. Josh thought about this for a moment and then turned to me and said, "your car is bigger (I have a small SUV) than mine, could you bring my horse home for me?" I don't know why, but that just cracked me up. Kylynn, of course, had to tell him that the horse wouldn't fit in my car either. Their conversation went on after that, but I found it amusing that neither one thought about just riding their horses home.

The conversations that kids, especially my daughter, have never cease to amuse me. And I love that, while they are young, all things seem possible, even likely, to children. Knights and pirates... care to join us?

Even on the rainiest day anything is possible, even the possibility of being a knight or a pirate.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Death is no stranger to me. That is to say,I have lost many loved ones to death, most within in the past two years. I know death well in its loss and sadness, and for that I hate death. I also know death in its belief of something more and better, and because of that I accept death. Death is no stranger to me. Dying, on the other hand, has never really moved past the stage of acquaintance with me. Mostly I think that is because dying scares me. But dying has been "hanging around" lately, in a manner of speaking, and so I have been making an effort to get to understand it a little better.

In the past year I have sat with two dying friends, Liz and Cathy. Liz, when I was with her last, had about a month of her life left. Cathy, when I last saw her, only had a week. Both dear friends knew that they were dying soon and both, though they might not have realized it, taught me lessons in dying. Liz, when I went to visit her and her husband in Maine last year, was in the last stages of cancer. I knew that when I went to see her, it is why I went to visit when I did, and still my mind fought against the idea of dying. I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea of losing Liz, and so the lessons seeped in but waited quietly until I was more ready to hear them. Liz and I talked a lot in the few days that I visited, or more accurately, Liz did a lot of talking and I did a lot of listening, and that's the way it needed to be, the way it was supposed to be. We talked about everything. The peace she had in her faith. The anxiety she had over leaving her husband and children. The ways she wanted to be remembered. Even the ways that she could feel her body dying. And, of course, there was happy talk to. Memories, stories, and shared experiences. And when I hugged Liz before I left I knew that I was hugging her for the last time, but my mind didn't allow the reality or poignancy of that moment to seep in until much later... until now, after Cathy's death.

Cathy, like Liz, had been suffering from a major (but different) illness for quite awhile, but unlike Liz, Cathy lived near to me and thus afforded me more opportunities to spend time with her. With Cathy the talking about her dying came over a longer period of time and in smaller ways. She, like Liz, also had great peace in her faith and concerns for her family. She also had ways she wanted to be remembered and observations about physical changes in her health. But all of that came dilluted over more time and wrapped in happy memories. And with Cathy it seemed that we had a more sure idea of when she was going to die. I knew, with more confidence than I did with Liz, that my last visit to her was my last, and Cathy knew too. Cathy came home from the hospital to die in her home. She came home with purpose and sent out word that she wanted everyone to come say good-bye. When I hugged Cathy for the last time the reality was all there and while I didn't want to accept it, somehow I could and knew it was okay. And that being okay somehow made Liz's death okay. I can't seem to find the right words to explain it. It is almost as though Cathy's peace and acceptance of her death combined with Liz's different kind of peace and acceptance and somehow the combination has given me some peace and acceptance. I am heartbroken, but have a new peace. A peace and a little bit better understanding of dying.

Dying is only a little bit more than just an acquaintance to me, and I'm okay with that. I'm not sure I want to understand dying too well. But I have sat with dying, listened to it, let it sit with me, and have less fear of it now. And that is something... though I must say, it doesn't seem like much when you are left still grieving, but it is something none the less.

And so, even on the rainiest day, there is peace and understanding if you allow yourself to sit with some sorrow.