My sister, Jane, passed away the other day.
My big sister. Three years older than me. She always took care of me, her baby brother.
My heart is beating out of my chest as I write this, but I'm gonna finish.
Freakin' cancer is an awful, awful thing. And seeing what it does to a person, slowly crushing them, is tough to take. At one point, the cancer was gone, and then it came back and even Johns Hopkins eventually said, hey, there is nothing else that we can do. How about that? What would you do? What would anybody do? What would my 81 year old parent's do?
You wanna fight?
You can fight. But then fluid is filling up your lungs daily and your body is betraying you and you can not breath, it is this fluid choking you, sucking the life out of you. My dad spent days and nights just draining that fluid out of her lungs. His daughter, right in front of his eyes. Every day. Suck out a little more fluid: 200 cc, 400cc, 600 cc. Yep. And you know, you just know what is really happening. It is something that you try to deny but it is right there.
What can I do? I ask. And he says, nothing, it is what I signed up for.
And I say, what about a hospital? And he says, Jim, she is my daughter, I can not leave her. I signed up for this. And then she calls to him late at night because she can't breath, and he is there for her as he as always been. He is her father, her rock, all that she has ever really depended on when things got real bad. And she hasn't made much sense recently but she did right then, when she said that she needed to go the hospital. And he calls 911 and they get there fast. And then there is the ambulance ride and the hospital. And they work on her and work on her but it isn't gonna happen. And then they say, hey, should we keep trying? And then the 81 year old dad says no, but he says to her- Jane, I love you and your mother loves you and Jim loves you and the kids love you. And dad hopes that she heard him. And then that is that.
And I get the phone call late that night and I hear my dad's voice and I feel his pain and I go into my mom's room and tell her. We were on vacation and my dad stayed back with my sister. I wake her and she says okay, and then she packs her things and I carry her suitcase out the car and then she drives two and a half hours back over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at daybreak because that is just what she does, what she signed up for as a mother. So strong. Their attitude has always been so let's get it done, this is what this brings, this life. And they both have been through being kids during World War II and my grandfather getting torpedoed during the war and heart disease and friends dying and sick grandkids and plenty of deaths and tragedies and guess what? You have to move and keep moving.
What else can you do? What is your other choice?
I don't know what else you can do. I just know that there are very few carefree times in life, and very few people that you truly, really love and care about. And I know that you should appreciate them more and hug them more and forgive them more and look them in their eyes more and just listen more. Because the bad times come and they keep coming no matter what and they are interspersed with some very few great times. But those great times? Cherish every second.
Focus intently on them and hold those times real tight. I think that it takes some sitting back and breathing real deep and asking, okay, what is important? Who is important? And here is my life and here is what I love and need to love even more. I don't know. I really don't know.
Just keep moving and loving and grit your teeth over and over the bad times. Bite down on your mouthpiece and stand up yet again on weakened legs and shake your fist at the cruelty and the injustice and the lack of fairness and then accept it and then? Love even harder.