Saturday, September 21, 2013
Seasons of Love
My husband's sister, my sister-in-law, died yesterday, just over a year after being diagnosed with glioblastoma. Glioblastoma is a mean, insidious, and voracious cancer of the brain, robbing its victims of their personalities in its final stages. Our niece moved her mother into her apartment to care for her, and then after several rounds of hospitalizations, back home with her to die. My sweet, strong, too young, indomitable niece whose mother was too young too, at 53.
The day before yesterday, Big Sis insisted on going to say goodbye to her auntie and to lend her support to her cousin whom she adores and views as a role model. She wasn't to be deterred despite our misgivings. Big Sis has been her own tornado of emotions all summer, missing her mom while I was away, missing her mom since I've been back, feeling at every sad turn the weight of the world. For her cousin to have to live on without her mom felt inconceivable to her, and Big Sis needed to tell her that she had faith in her. So Husband took her to our niece's apartment for an important moment of fellowship.
And last night Husband was with our niece and his sister when she died.
My baby Tootsie will be Big Sis's age, a tender ten years old, when I'm 53.
I know of another cancer-stricken mom who will soon be gone, with her too-young children and husband preparing for that eventuality. How does she prepare? I do not know.
I remember walking with my mom and Tootsie at Harvard in August as the freshman class was arriving and moving into dorms. "Welcome Class of 2017," read a banner. I calculated Tootsie's potential college graduation year: 2035. I said it aloud. My mom might not be here then, I thought, wondering if she was thinking the same, as we both walked silently two decades in the future for a moment.
I could feel selfish, or foolish, for having this baby at 42. Or I could quit counting the days or time over which I have so little control, as my sister-in-law teaches me. I've been making Time too much of an enemy of late. I have too little time left before my maternity leave, my Tootsie Time, is over. I had too little time with my daughters this summer. I'll have too little time for everything when I return to work. I have lists and projects and dreams...and I haven't been to Montana nor the Grand Canyon with my daughters yet...but there may not be enough time.
But there's time enough for Now, my niece teaches me. I'm learning there's no way to be content in this life while regretting what might not be, what cannot be, grasping at sand slipping through fingers, a fumbling which requires so much frantic energy it doesn't allow for the feel of grit and warmth and the sound of laughter and expressions of those loved ones with whom I sift sand every day.
Tonight at a wedding shower I listened and laughed as two twenty/thirty-something granddaughters chided their grandpa for fibbing to another (young, female) guest. So much love. Such a here-and-now celebration.
Here and now. I'm going to work on appreciating the gift of the present, along with the gifts of the loved ones we've lost too soon.