Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time for farewell: the black rider approaches

We found out this evening that Natasha's mother has about two or three months to live.

She told us a couple years ago that she had been diagnosed with small-cell carcinoma, a particularly aggressive form of cancer. Now the cancer has metastasized, as cancers will do, and has spread to her liver, her lungs, a rib, her arm, and her lumbar region. Surgery removed the tumor from her neck, but there's nothing they can do about the rest of it. Her body is too spent from the cancer and a previous chemo regimen to handle further chemo at this point.

My wife, as I'm sure you can understand, is taking it pretty badly. Natasha is only 33; her mother, 57. It is far too early to say goodbye, and yet the time has come when goodbyes must be said. She is flying out to Arizona next Wednesday, and will stay there through June 10 to help Ma and her partner as she recovers from surgery. (The partner also has cancer, in his colon.)

This news about her mother's situation comes hard on the heels of a 30-day notice by her employer that her position is being eliminated due to funding shortages. On that same day that they said they expect her to take her accumulated vacation time first, rather than cashing it out at the end. Bad news comes not upon a single horse but with a stampeding herd.

Grief, however, is ruthless. If we don't pay her toll when first requested, she guarantees that we will pay, later, at a far steeper price.

Evangeline and Rachel know that their grandmother has cancer, and they know that she's been in the hospital because of it. They don't know yet that it's terminal, nor do they know that they probably won't get to see her again. (I can't even begin to tell you the knot it puts in my stomach to set that down so coldly in writing.)

We're going to talk with them about it tomorrow night at dinner. I expect it will be difficult for them both, because they love Grandma.

Years ago the Brucker remarked that the true evil of death isn't borne by the one who dies. For the departed, death is a mercy. It ends suffering and puts them beyond the reach of disease, old age or spite.

The evil of death is visited upon the people who are left behind. Children, grandchildren, parents and friends are left with an empty space for as long as they remain on this earth. I see that happening here, and I'm struck by just how spot-on his comments were.

I appreciate your prayers. Natasha has a long road ahead of her, and I plan to be with her every step of that winding path.

Thanks everyone for your time spend reading this, and thank you for your prayers.

Copyright © 2008 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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