Thursday, March 09, 2006

room 408 ...

that's where you died. i'll call you cindy, even tho' we did not call you this in life. i know you can hear me, out there, somewhere, soaring on a trail of stardust. you're there - with your eyes wide open ... singing, shouting at the top of your voice, the voice that got so cruelly stifled toward end of your earthly existence.

cindy, i have thought about you these years since your death. wanting, so many times, to put your story in words. wanting to share your courage, your pain, the rip-off of your life ... and death. wanting to share this with others. but, until now cindy, i could not. could not give a voice to that very painful story -- your story. you seem so far away, cindy ... and as i revisit bittersweet memories of you that linger in my heart, i think each day since your death must seem an eternity to your children. i hope that you can watch them grow, and silently, wrap your loving arms around them, cindy. 15 and 17 years old ... that's far too young to lose your mother.

know what i remember, cindy? i remember that angry, stubborn and fiercly secretive woman who brooded in the corner of a 4-bed hospital room. angry, cindy ... so very angry. and - i don't blame you. but it sure made nursing you a challenge at times. even tho the rapidly growing cancer on your thyroid gland, and the tracheostomy it neccesitated, had silenced your voice, your outbursts could be sooo vitriolic just the same, cindy. in those early days of your admission, how you lashed out at us all. possibly, you hoped to keep us beyond your towering wall?

cindy ... i cannot imagine the journey you took, battling your cancer alone. your kids ... so lost and alone, too. such desperate sorrow silently gushed from their pores each time they came to visit. and ... how did they manage, so alone? forbidden, by you, to tell their father that their mother had terminal cancer. and ... that acrimonious relationship between you and your ex ... it left you with a bitter taste of antagonism in your mouth even as you contemplated your death.

i remember, cindy, your denial. how, at one point, you decided that the oncologist made a mistake. maybe that's why you had not really prepared yourself, or anyone else around you for the inevitable? the reason your head was swelling so severely that it made your eyes close, you announced, was because of an undiagnosed heart condition. oh, cindy, how this made me feel so sad about the job i had to do. how could i guide your passage thru this dark and difficult tunnel if you did not want to even walk inside it? and we watched you, cindy, lose each tiny battle with the cancer. day by day. week by week. and, eventually, silent, sad resignation cross your face like a shadow. and it rested there.

what a rip-off, cindy! how cheated we all felt for you. so intelligent, so determined, so much mothering left to do, and one course away from your PH.D. and cancer washed it all away. and you hung on, for as long as you could. maybe for too long? we all just wanted it to end, cindy. but you hung on. and, it hurt. and i remember trying really hard not to let the other patients see me cry whenever the harpist would come and play for you, cindy. a small, simple pleasure, cindy. but so beautiful and it made you smile. and what a beautiful smile, cindy. and we marvelled that you could still smile. and we cried that you could not even talk to your own mother on the phone, because you had no voice ... you could not even tell your mother you loved her, missed her. cindy ... no words can express it.

cindy, i remember marvelling at how you could write out what you wanted to say on the paper so neatly, so legibly ... even with your eyes swollen shut, your handwriting looked like 'school teaching writing' - perfectly formed and readable. and, cindy, i remember how you replied 'don't make me brave, make it easy,' when i told you that i thought your were so strong and brave. i'll never forget the feeling i felt, then - best described as a shard of glass thru a soft, ripe fruit - as these words sunk into my soul.

i watching you wither, fight, then fail over a period of 8 months. each and everyday i worked with you, cindy, you took my breath away. and when i think of you now ... you still do. you challenged us every day, cindy. and you made us feel it. and you taught us courage, hope, compassion, patience ... and above all - humilty. thank you cindy ... for your eternal lesson. i feel so privileged to have shared so intimately the raw moments of your life and to have made a difference in your death. i remember you, cindy, for so many reasons.

i'll never forget how you said goodbye to your kids. on mother's day, they came to visit ... spent the afternoon with you, pinned their artwork to your hospital room walls. when they said their goodbyes - the last time they saw you alive. and, two long and lonely weeks later, you died ... alone, in the hours before dawn, in your private and dark room. 408. i remember, cindy. 408. i will never forget.


Cala Lily said...

Oh Malva,

Our souls are so alike. Drowning in grief. Tumbling through time.

Nothing is ever really over, is it? Each moments hangs there and calls us back.

I'm trying to learn to break the surface. To come up for air. To shed the past like an old skin. But really -

I am Sarah. A pillar of salt. Looking back.

mad malva blue said...

Dear Lily,

your words ring so true. all of this grief, it defines us, doesn't it? and so, yes to shed the past seems like a good idea sometimes, but, then, i'm afraid i might forget. and so, sometimes, i am that pillar of salt, too.

yes - i think our souls are kindred.


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