I took a nap today. I don’t often do that. Though I have retired from my profession as an educator, I always am busy. Myriad tasks, some important, some not, keep me moving. Even if I am stationary, I am either reading, writing, or I admit, perusing Facebook or playing Words With Friends for a few minutes with folks I do not know, and a few I do. Today, however, my body simply said to me, “Take a rest.”
A friend of mine died a couple of days ago. She was not young, not old. She was not expecting to face death quite so soon I can be certain, but her illness came on like gangbusters and didn’t give her a chance. I do not believe I am wrong to conclude she was not ready. Neither was her family. Neither was I. And that, perhaps, is the reason for today’s exhaustion – a delayed reaction to news I was unprepared to have to accept, news that her death was near and inevitable. My friend, Maria, died of brain cancer, a very aggressive glioblastoma that took her life less than two months after her diagnosis, its evil tentacles crawling through her head, vicious and uncontrollable. When I was notified of her condition, I phoned, I texted, I sent flowers, my husband and I visited, we took more flowers . . . and we stood helplessly beside her listening to her mumble cooking instructions. She remembered her father. She reached for her husband’s hand. And she held mine. Warmth. I remember the warmth of her touch. I will never forget it.
And I remembered that God-awful feeling – powerlessness. It was the same feeling I had when I sat beside my son, Alex’s bed in the weeks before he passed away, also of brain cancer - only his was different - a nine-year battle fighting an oligoastrocytoma he named Chet that though debulked, poisoned, and radiated eventually took his young life. He was thirty-nine – a handsome, funny, hardworking, blue-eyed firefighter, a CAL FIRE engineer, a man who always gave more than he took, a man that everyone who knew him, loved.
In the hours that have followed my friend’s death, besides being hounded by deep sadness, I have been unsettled, launching into tasks too mundane to mention, though I will: doing laundry, vacuuming, cooking, baking cookies, bathing my dog. And I have created other chores. Finally, after nearly ten years, I shredded documents, Alex’s documents – taxes, financials, medical records, photos too blurred to show an image. I have sorted through boxes of my son’s old photographs – of fires and firefighting, girlfriends, long-time friends, family, and pets, lots of lots of pets. It was heart wrenching at times to peek yet again into intricacies of my son’s life.
And I was reminded. My friend’s family will take on that chore, that responsibility sometime in the future, of sifting through their loved one’s “stuff”. They will cry, their hearts will ache, their pulses will pound, and they will grieve over and over – one time not enough. They will be exhausted. I hope they can rest. I hope they find elusive peace to ease the pain. I really do. Reflection helps, too. It does. Like naps, musing diminishes the exhaustion that results from unfathomable loss. That is why, with this piece, I cherish memories.
Rest now, my friend. Rest in peace. You, like my beautiful son, will live on, precious memories bridges to the past, reminders of our profound love for such beautiful souls.
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