Friday, May 30, 2014

Reflections on "Done"

Tonight marks 52 x 2 = 104 weeks since Brandon whispered, "Done." I asked if he understood what the oncology resident was telling him and offered a quick explanation of what she had said. Brandon's eyes locked with mine and he again whispered, but more decisively this time, "Done." 

The sound of his "done" haunts me. I hear each "done" over and over and over -- the first resonating with the struggle to get one word out when it was taking everything he had to simply inhale and exhale; the second resonating with the strength of his decision. For a long time I interpreted that second "done" as meaning he knew his body could take no more. His cancer had gone too far. He knew, and his second "done" meant he accepted. 

In the first year after Brandon's death, the sound of that second "done" so rang in my ear that I didn't realize I was missing a crucial element. It suddenly struck me at some point in this second year that his expressive eyes, the window of his soul, were trying to tell me his second "done" meant much more. Yes, I think he knew and accepted, but I believe his eyes were telling me he had accomplished what he was supposed to accomplish during his too short life. He had "done" what he'd come to do.

Oh, something my soul recognized during our eye contact and the second "done" -- a "reverse birthing" process had begun. And the labor contractions triggered by his whispered "done" were thousands of times more painful than those preceding his physical birth. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

No, I’m Not Angry With God or Cancer

Once in awhile someone tells me I must be angry. Angry with God. Angry with the universe. Angry with whatever caused Brandon’s cancer. Sometimes someone says surely I ask, "Why?" 

I’m not and haven’t been angry – not with God, the universe or whatever caused some of Brandon’s cells to go whacko. And I don’t ask, “Why?” Why my baby, our Brandon? Why our family? Why now instead of many years from now? Why not someone who isn’t a good person – why not someone who hurts others? Why not me instead of him? But my work is in health care. I know “shit happens” and shit is nondiscriminatory. So perhaps the question should be, “Why not?”

A few weeks ago I finished the book The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) by John Green.  I hesitated reading it, as I knew it was about young adults with cancer. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it, especially when others told me how they’d sobbed through several chapters. Still, like a moth to flame, I was drawn to it. Since the movie is soon to debut, I figured it was safer for this moth(er) to check out the book in the privacy of her home rather than the film version in a public movie theater.

Although I confess to a few moments of teariness, I did not cry as I’ve come to know “cry.” No tears rolled down my cheeks. I did not sob. I did not hear the guttural sounds I’d never known I was capable of uttering until moments after Brandon’s soul and body separated, but which I’ve heard many times since. I’ve cried my river in the last 1 year + 51.9 weeks. At times I feel as if I’m crying a new river. I guess much of TFIOS seemed to be no more than “been there, done that.”

Still, I found myself highlighting several passages. Those passages spoke to me. I include a few here.

“What am I at war with? My cancer. And what is my cancer? My cancer is me. The tumors are made of me. They’re made of me as surely as my brain and my heart are made of me. It is a civil war… with a predetermined winner.“                                                            Augustus Waters                                                            

Brandon didn’t lose “his” battle with cancer, because if he battled his cancer, he’d have been battling himself. Some tiny thing that was part him forgot to act properly and it became a big thing. He did his best to put a stop to it, but puny humans cannot always put a halt to this part of themselves even with today’s treatments.

And that brings me to another statement of TFIOS “hero” Augustus Waters:  
“Even cancer isn’t a bad guy really: Cancer just wants to be alive.”

Augustus may have referred to dealing with cancer as a civil war, but when the cancer, the part of the body that’s gone haywire, overwhelms its own body, the cancer dies too. In wanting to be alive, cancer sets up its own demise. I feel sure Brandon would have been willing to “share.” Hell, he’d have been willing to serve as the poster boy for cancer if it meant he (and his cancer part) could have stayed here in this world with his wife, daughter, family and friends for a long time.

“The pleasure of remembering was taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.”    
                                                              Hazel Grace Lancaster   

Relationships come in all shapes and sizes: couples, parent and child, siblings, friends. For every relationship one is part of, there are shared moments that are special. Such moments are brought up, discussed, laughed at, enjoyed and savored over and over as time passes. TFIOS narrator Hazel nails the feeling when one’s co-remember is no longer present and will not be present to co-remember ever again.
Creation of a co-remembrance

This weekend marks 2 years – 104 weeks since Brandon and his cancer died.
It seemed like forever ago, like we’d had this brief but infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”                                                                                     Hazel Grace

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I used to wonder

I used to wonder how actors could cry on cue. 
I no longer wonder. 
I can do it too.

All I must do
Is drop the mask of denial.
Step out of the numb.
Feel the real.
Acknowledge what's true. 

That there will be no more of his hugs. 
No more of his jokes.  
No more Mother's Day tuna tartare.
No more dancing the worm or busting his chin
Or explaining what happened with his unique quirky grin. 

I used to wonder how anyone could cry on cue.
I no longer wonder.
I do it too.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day - Year 2

I thought Mother’s Day would be easier this year. Not. I must’ve been enjoying time in Denial but found myself on a quick trip back to Reality by Friday. It came in fits and starts on Saturday, especially during the afternoon and later evening. I cried me a new river.

Mother’s Day itself felt rather anti-climactic. There were certainly many happy moments with my four living children this weekend. Carolyn, due to have her first baby this week, and her husband Kris hosted a wonderful Mother’s Day brunch. I had a chance to be with all in-town children and children-in-law and grandchildren. FaceTime allowed me to catch up with both of my out-of-town sons and their families. Carolyn and I visited my mother, who celebrates her 85th birthday next Saturday. I am blessed. Still.

Before heading home, Carolyn and I stopped by the cemetery. Both of us shared that it was not a place where we feel Brandon’s presence, yet I wanted to stop. No tears. More a feeling of numbness. Numbness can be good when memories of Mother’s Days past include years of special dinners prepared by a son who on Mother’s Day, a few weeks before he died, told me, “Mom, you know Mother’s Day is my ‘thing’!”

I found this yesterday afternoon, and it pretty much sums it up

The Cord

We are connected,
My child and I, by
An invisible cord
Not seen by the eye.

It’s not like the cord
That connects us ‘til birth.
This cord can’t be seen
By any on earth.

This cord does its work
Right from the start.
It binds us together,
Attached to my heart.

I know that it’s there,
Though no one can see
The invisible cord
From my child to me.

The strength of this cord
Is hard to describe.
It can’t be destroyed.
It can’t be denied.

It’s stronger than any cord
Man could create.
It withstands the test,
Can hold any weight.

And though you are gone,
Though you’re not here with me,
The cord is still there
But no one can see.

It pulls at my heart.
I am bruised… I am sore,
But this cord is my lifeline,
As never before.

I am thankful that God
Connects us this way.
A mother and child
Death can’t take it away!

                                Author Unknown