Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,
Steven
unzeugmatic

No Way to Buffer It

From the time my friend Cindy was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer nearly two years ago, she and her husband Charlie have been facing this directly and openly and gracefully. I know Charlie and Cindy through my local shapenote community. They had become less active in recent years, but after Cindy's diagnosis we saw a lot more of them again. During Cindy's final weeks, when she was in home hospice care, they would invite small groups of singers over to their house on a regular basis just to sing. These singings were lovely times, in large part because Cindy was lucid and she was not in major pain, right until the end.

Cindy wrote about her illness in her livejournal at times. There was one particular entry last July that I just loved. Cindy had taken a break from work for chemo treatment at a time when she was starting to have serious trouble with her balance. She noted in her livejournal how very helpful everybody had been all day, opening doors and helping with elevators and helping her get up. Then later in the day, after returning to work, more people had been helpful to her when she needed some assistance with her tray at lunch. Apparently all of these people had come forward to go out of their way to help without being asked. When she returned to work after lunch she sent an email message to the manager of the work cafeteria to say how grateful she was to the people who had been so helpful and polite. Then she noted that the chemo went smoothly and she felt fine for the rest of the day.

Now me, I kept thinking that Cindy was having significant difficulties walking, standing up, moving, carrying things -- all on a day when she had a chemo treatment mid-morning. But this didn't stop her from going to work either before or after the treatment. She really didn't want it any other way. Nor did it stop her from spreading a sort of sweet grace to all she encountered. I don't think she could have helped that part.

Charlie and Cindy organized Cindy's memorial last month, while she was still able to attend. I know at first glance that seems strange, or at least unusual, but it was very much on the theme of "give me the roses while I live" -- words that appear in one of the songs in the Sacred Harp as well as in some oldtime country songs. Women from Cindy's bellydance troupe danced, co-workers she had become friends with during a strike of University workers a couple of years ago spoke, and there was lots of singing. We celebrated her life while we still had the the opportunity to tell her so. I know this may not be what some of us might wish for ourselves, but it felt like a perfectly natural thing, and Cindy was radiant. My understanding is that Charlie and Cindy meant it when they said this was the memorial, and there will not be another one now.

So here's my point. You'd think that with all of this facing of Cindy's situation directly, of having the amazing opportunity to have lovely fine times during a friend's final days, of knowing of the fairly sudden turn for the serious over the last few days and even having two days' warning that there likely was not much time left -- you'd think that would prepare you for the actual news. You'd think that might cushion the blow, that this time it wouldn't feel so much like a sword suddenly plunged into your heart.

But you'd be wrong.

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/cindykissee/journal
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