Sunday, September 9, 2012


This has been an odd weekend. After picking up a couple we’ve been friends with forever, we were to leave Friday afternoon for a western Detroit suburb and the Saturday wedding of other forever friends’ youngest daughter. I was really looking forward to the road trip, exploring the town, walking the labyrinth in a local park, and being part of the joy of this wedding.

I had been looking forward to this wedding and “road trip weekend” long before Brandon’s PET scan revealed the chemo was no longer working, but since his death I’m especially grateful for busy Fridays and Saturdays. Without weekend distractions I relive Brandon’s last two days, a Friday and Saturday, every week. I relive hearing him struggling for each breath. I relive the resident M.D. revealing that no matter how much IV base they poured into his port, he remained in respiratory acidosis with a pH of 7.25. (Normal blood pH is within the narrow parameters of 7.35-7.45.)  I relive hearing him say, “Done,” when the resident said they could make him more comfortable if he was ready to disconnect infusion of the IV base fluid. Then another, “Done,” after I’d made sure he understood what the resident was saying by explaining again in Cliff Notes fashion. It was a fair decision and his to make, but it is one that is agonizing in the reliving. I relive looking at the beautiful bones of his skull, those wonderful cheekbones, and his magnificent brandy-colored Brandon eyes and knowing I’d never be seeing them lit with life again.

Yes, I’d looked forward to this weekend for so many reasons, but it was not to be. At 6:30 Friday morning my husband Joe woke me to say he’d been in excruciating pain most of the night. He described it as a 10 on a pain scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), and Joe has a high tolerance for pain. Off to the emergency room we went. Five hours later, they’d rule out kidney stones and any GI issue. That left a musculoskeletal problem and his internist, a medical school classmate, said the x-rays indicated the likelihood of such. We returned home about an hour after we’d already planned to be on the road with prescriptions for a steroid, a muscle relaxant and a powerful NSAID. Although he rallied that evening and we entertained thoughts of heading for the wedding the next morning, that was a pie in the sky wish. He was a bit better by Saturday morning but nowhere near ready to spend hours in a car two days in a row. I called our friends, who had waited to see if he would be able to go Saturday morning, and gave them the lack of progress report so they could get on the road early and make it to the wedding festivities with time to spare.

It was time to create new distractions. After ensuring that Joe was comfortable and had what he needed, I jumped on my bike to cycle across the Ohio River to walk the labyrinth at the new Smale Riverfront Park. (Expect a lengthy post on walking the labyrinth soon!) That was not to be either. About halfway there, the seat on my bicycle broke. I’ll spare you the details. I can only say that the ride home was hazardous. At any moment my tush tissue (and that of more delicate areas nearby) was in danger of injury from the constant forward-backward, upward-downward shifting of the seat. As I pulled into our garage, I heard music coming from the park only a few blocks away. Because we were to be away, I’d not paid attention to the “Art in the Park” signs draped from one side of the street to the other as one entered our little town. Oh, good, a new distraction.

I showered and headed to the park to see if there was any work of art we couldn’t live without. Mostly, I was there to kill time so I could briefly forget about Brandon's last couple of days and the disease that killed him. There was some lovely work, but mainly I just wanted to wander. Then I came upon the one booth that really attracted my attention – a tarot card reader. I wanted to sign up for a reading, but the reader wasn’t at her booth. I wandered some more and, at our neighborhood association booth, I joined without having to mail an application. (I hate snail mailing anything any more!) But I found myself wandering back to the tarot card reader. She was now there and involved in a reading. I waited. An exhibitor, who’d been promised she was next in line, came for her reading. I waited longer. Two other women came up, and one was a repeat customer who praised the reader. “Art in the Park” was about to come to an end, but the reader agreed to do a reading for those of us currently in line. I was next.

I won’t go into most of my reading. I will say it opened with a “Wow, you are in the midst of major change – and I mean major,” and the rest hit on aspects of my life that are particularly important at this moment. One of those aspects touched on the importance of getting away with Joe for some of type of retreat or vacation. As it happens, we’re to leave in a couple of weeks for our first real vacation in several years. We are to be in Assisi, one of my favorite places, on St. Francis’s feast day. For this and other reasons, the reader asked if there might be something I associate with Brandon that I’d want to take to or leave in Assisi in his honor. That idea immediately resonated and I feel grateful for it.

I still relived a lot this weekend, and I cried a lot off and on this weekend. But just as one plan didn’t work out, an unplanned activity took me in a new direction, gave me something different to think about and made me feel grateful for the new theme for the trip to Assisi.

Life – and death – is crazy! The best-laid plans can be disrupted. Disruption can lead to entirely new and meaningful distractions. Perspective changes when one lives with the death of one’s baby (of any age). What a mixed blessing…

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