Sunday, May 6, 2012

To Every Thing There Is A Season

Death sucks.

And when she is not yet forty, with two sons, 6 and 2, and super nice husband who is a hands-on father, and Mother's Day is coming, well, then, death really sucks. And when news of her death, which you just received this morning while strolling at the Farmer's Market with your six-year old daughter after hauling her 13 miles on a Burley trailer, stirs up memories of your own loss and how your two kids have no mother, and your heart aches every time Maya swats at t-ball or twirls in ballet class and Miguel writes a beautiful essay for high school or grabs a touchdown at flag football, and you can't share any of it with your late wife, well, then, it sucks on a personal and visceral level.

I formally met L. about six weeks ago at Whole Foods. Maya pointed out her oldest son, who is in another kindergarten class at her school, because they are sometime playmates at recess. So I started talking to her husband, D. and Maya and the son acted goofy. I'd seen L. several times around school, a wide smile on her face, bright brown eyes, soulful and expressive, but we'd only nodded. Then a day after Whole Foods, she and her sons were at the city park where we live.

She said, "I'm glad we met. I've known about you and what you've gone through. I wanted to offer my help any time, with Maya, whatever."

We exchanged phone numbers. She also told me part of her story. She'd been diagnosed with cancer in her 20s, shortly after she'd met D. How she healed herself with conventional and non-traditional methods. How proud she'd been to take command of her illness.

"I did a lot of reading and research," she said.

And D. had been with her throughout the ordeal. His love and commitment had never wavered before the extra pull of kids bonded them even more deeply.

I shared with her that I was going on a special vacation in a week or so to Paris, and she was genuinely excited for how my life journey was progressing.

A couple of weeks ago she went to the hospital or doctor with severe flu-like symptoms and they discovered she had leukemia. She got an infection, her blood was seriously messed up, that's all I know right now. Did she lapse into a coma or steel herself for a brave assault on the disease attacking her body? The details will wend their way through the community in their own time.

But now she is gone. Forever. After I absorbed the ice cold blast of news this morning, the wave of sadness and shock rushing over me, I asked my friend if I could reach out to D. when it's appropriate.

"I don't know if I have any specific wisdom to share," I said. "But I can talk about what I went through and how I coped."

Just as my good friend David Lanes did for me after Verna died, which had only been a year since the death of his wife. But I know now is not yet the time for D., while his emotions are raw and painful and time seems so fucking unreal.

When D. and I do talk I will share how I told the kids their momma was a star in heaven and how we went out for so many nights after Verna's death and picked out the brightest star and exclaimed, "That's Mommy." And how I went to a support group at hospice and Maya had play therapy there for a year, and Miguel saw someone for a year-and-half. And how my neighbors and friends and family pitched in with meals and babysitting and money, and are still there for us, because without a village I'd have never survived. Or how sometimes just the smallest, seemingly insignificant thing brought (and still brings) me to tears. Or how you never move on, but cope better. And magic, from children or other relationships, still exists and awaits.

As the news settled over me during the day I just wanted to reach out to those people closest to me and tell them how much I love them and how blessed I feel to have them in my life. I hugged Maya several times after dinner, at the park, and before she drifted off to sleep. I also grabbed Miguel and said, "Have I told you I loved you?" as he climbed up the stairs to his room. He nodded. "And," I added, "I'm proud of you."

D. is part (as was L.) of a small but devout cluster within Christianity, so I imagine his faith will provide comfort over the succeeding days, weeks, months, years. And I don't need to remind him the truth of the words of Ecclesiastes (chapter 3), popularized by the Byrds in their song, 'Turn, Turn, Turn', "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven."

Because right now, at this very moment in this household and at D.'s home, we know that life is often not fair and death really, really sucks.

1 comment:

  1. This is what I love about your writing.

    And it is true, that holding our kids is so comforting. Hugs to you, and prayers to the family of this meditation.