Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Love Loss & Laughter’

Just Around The Corner

Excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter
by Gabriel Constans.

Just Around The Corner: Hope and Healing

I fell in love with Robin the first day we met. She was playing her role, as a recently admitted hospice patient, with great style and flair, while I lumbered through my part as the experienced “seasoned” social worker.

She wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award and didn’t give a damn about her looks. Her body looked like a skeleton with a layer of skin painted on with a thick brush. A blue and green scarf covered her almond-shaped, balding head. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds and her smile hung in the air like the Cheshire cat.

She had a warmth and graciousness that the worst ravages of metastatic breast cancer could not hide. Entering her small, low-income apartment by the sea, felt like entering a sanctuary or coming home for the holidays.

Her one-woman play about a terminal disease had about a two year run.

She talked openly about dying, but more about living. She wasn’t afraid of death, but she loved life. She loved her mother, her boyfriend, her family and friends. She loved music, art, beauty and nature. She was thirty-eight years old and she wanted to live until she was an old woman with grandchildren. She kept waiting for a new treatment, another remission, some kind of hope or miracle. It almost came twice.

An experimental trial with a new drug regime was supposed to be available through her HMO but kept getting put off, then delayed, eventually fizzling away into the land of false promises. Then came the dream of a cure with Angiostatin and similar therapies, which exploded across the media and public airwaves as “extremely hopeful cures for cancer tumors.” Again she was told of some local trials and assured that she was eligible to participate, but this too seemed to fade into oblivion as time slipped by, leaving her to use whatever means she had at her disposal – blood transfusions, medications, hospitalization, intravenous therapy, diet, herbs, detoxification, prayer, meditation, visualization – she tried it all, but the cancer kept chipping away.

She went to the hospital for one final assault, then returned home. It was a glorious Indian Summer when I saw her for the last time. I knocked on her weathered door, heard her call out “Come in.” and entered her tiny sunlit living room, which was also her bedroom, library and dining area.

Moving towards the head of her hospital bed, I saw that she’d been through the ringer and was losing ground fast. Her face was black, blue and yellow, as if she’d just been in a bar room brawl. Her skin was almost translucent, stretched over her frame like a sheet of white plastic. Her arms were as thin as straws and she struggled to breathe deeply. In spite of her frailty and obvious diminishing returns, her eyes still danced and she spoke vibrantly about life and healing.

“I hope my life made a difference,” she said softly.

“You know it has,” I reassured. “You’ve given such love.”

“Yes, I guess so,” she said and touched my cheek gently with her fingers. “That’s been the best part.”

“What’s next?” I asked tentatively, wondering what she planned to do with her remaining days.

She turned away, looked out her large window and watched a mother and daughter lean against the cliff side railing, their hair blowing in the wind, the child laughing, screaming with delight. Without changing position, she replied, “I don’t know. What do you think?”

Part of me wanted to run. My many years of listening and learning how to be present seemed to slip out the door. “I don’t know,” I said lamely. “Part of me doesn’t want to believe this day has come.” I followed her gaze, not really focusing on anything. My hopeless grasping continued. “I don’t want you to die.”

“Nice thought,” she smiled, “but just a wee bit unrealistic.” She rolled her eyes and grinned with amusement.

“Yeah,” I blushed. “It’s just . . . I don’t know . . .” I struggled to find the right words then looked her way. “How do you let go of everything you’ve known with such dignity and grace?”

“I don’t have any choice,” she said without hesitation.

“I know we don’t always have a choice over what happens to us,” I blundered along, “but we have a choice in how we respond to what happens, don’t we? If I was in your position, I’d be screaming and yelling to my last breath.”

Without blinking, she reiterated, “Like I said, I don’t have a choice. This is who I am.”

Robin died two days later. She died like she lived, tenderly and peacefully. I, on the other hand, keep wailing away at the ravages of cancer, thinking I have more choices in life than are probable and hoping a cure for cancer is “just around the corner.”


Perished and Present

Memorial Day – “a legal holiday in the U.S. in memory of the dead servicemen of all wars.”

That’s how Webster’s defines Memorial Day, but is that what takes place? Has this day of remembrance become just another holiday; another three-day weekend; a day of forgetting?

Memorial Day can be a powerful reminder and opportunity for honoring and remembering our dead; for paying homage to those who died believing that their lives made a difference; that their lives were sacrificed for the benefit of others.

In many respects, those who have died for this experiment in democracy are still living. They’re living in the water we drink, the food we grow, the ballot we cast, the policies we protest, the pains, sorrows and struggles of everyday life.

I respect the men and women who fought to end slavery in the Civil War and those, like my grandfather William, who fought in World War I, believing it would be “the war to end all wars”. I remember and give thanks to my father-in-law, who fought during World War II against the Nazis and lost his parents, grandparents, family and friends in the concentration camps. I thank my father, who went away for years to an unknown fate to stop the dictatorships of German and Japanese governments during the second world war. And I remember and honor all those who died in Lebanon, Panama, Viet Nam, on 9-11, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those who returned from those conflicts and died from resulting disease, addiction or suicide.

Though Memorial Day honors those who have died during wartime, let us not forget the military women and men who have died outside of conflict; those who have died while training; while in transport; during missions of peace and rescue; and at home from illness, accident, governmental disregard or neglect.

Before we can ever proclaim, “Never again!” we must exclaim, “Never forget!” Never forget the soldiers and civilians who have perished. Let us honor they’re memory, by keeping them in our hearts and doing everything possible to prevent and end the wars that have caused such great sorrow and suffering. Take some time to bring out pictures, tell stories, make a toast, thank those still living and recommit our selves to the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Memorial Day reminds us that blood and tears are the same in any language. Every life is precious and every loss must be remembered, mourned and honored.

These thoughts and reflections are an excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

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