Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where it all began

It's like Facebook knows us. On my list of online friends, you are right under Kevin. Because you were the one I talked to the most. I still expect to see the green online dot appear by your name. At first, I wouldn't read the posts people wrote about you. Now I am searching them out, looking for any bit of newness. Something that makes it not be over. I go to Twitter and do a search on your handle and smile at the moms who are thinking of you when their children notice the stars. You are always in the night sky. You are always in nature. You are always with me. I'm going to Mississippi tomorrow. Our place of becoming. I'll drive by your house. By my house. I'll show them to my children. I don't really know why. Probably because you are always with me, and that is where it all began. Instead of where it all ended.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I'm out of words. Tonight, there are just tears and trying to substitute a conversation with my bestie by spending some time on her blog. Tonight, I'll give you a peek into who I miss. Not a patient, or an advocate, or a scientist, or a blogger. Just my friend. Forever.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

January 20

Dear Susan,

There are only three people on my speed dial. Kevin, my momma, and you. My finger moves towards 7 or 8 several times a day. I know you don't have the energy or the breath to talk, so I don't call but once a day. I'm showing restraint that you will never know I had.

Last Saturday morning I woke up and felt like I couldn't breathe. It felt like my chest had been put in a vice. Every breath I drew was sharp, painful, and very unsatisfying.

Lucky me, I just went to the doctor, had a breathing treatment, got some antibiotics and steroids, and now, a week later, I'm only using my inhaler once a day. Easy peasy.

Your lungs aren't nearly as agreeable. Right now, they are filling up with fluid in which nasty cancer cells swim and multiply. You can't breathe. You won't be able to breathe. This will be the end. We both know that.

While it isn't a surprise, it still has knocked me senseless. The sorrow I have felt since we talked yesterday is crushing me. All I want to do is close my eyes and sleep. My head hurts. My heart hurts.

I don't know what I'm going to do without you.

I have a million questions for you. Everyday I have questions for you. Parenting questions. Questions about books. About math. About space. About fish tanks. About God. About any and everything. You are my Wikipedia.

I don't know what I'm going to do without you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Threading it back together

When I had my first miscarriage in 2006, I grieved here on this blog. I poured my sorrow out through my words so that I could leave the pain here and try to get on with daily life.

It worked for me.

This time, I'm publicly grieving for my best friend. I'm laying out the pain, the utter agony, of losing the person I have had holding my hand through life for 25 years. Here are the pieces of my heart, shattered for you. Tread lightly among my words, for they are threading those pieces back together again.

Today, more people I actually see in real life sometimes read my words. I run into them, and I feel weird for smiling. I feel awkward for not breaking down into a puddle of tears. 

The thing is, by laying out the grief here, I am better able to pull myself together in real life.

Susan understood that. 

At BlogHer in 2008, she spoke on a grief panel. Most of the bloggers on the panel had blogged about personal illness or loss. Susan described what it was like to blog so personally about her cancer diagnosis and treatment while still maintaining so much privacy for her family. At some point in the session, I mentioned that I blogged to leave it behind me for the day. 

There is no point to that paragraph, other than the fact that it has been on my mind all day.

I am fine out in public. I have to be. It is my nature to smile, laugh, and make inappropriate jokes. 

The only time I am not fine is when I have reason to say the actual words out loud, "My best friend, Susan, died last Monday." Actually saying it out loud always get me. Hell. Just typing it makes me cry. Somehow, that very concrete admittance of the obvious just sticks in my throat. I know that not saying doesn't mean it didn't happen. I just hate saying it.

So I grieve here. Where I can wallow and hurt and cry and gnash my teeth. I will hit publish, be comforted by the wisdom and compassion of so many people who take the time to share it with me. Then I will close the laptop, get up, and go on with life.

It's far from fair, but doing anything any differently won't change the fact that she is gone.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A year of goodbyes

A year ago today, we buried my daddy.

Parkinson's and dementia had left him barely recognizable by phone. In person though, there was no mistaking his laugh, the twinkle of mischief in his eye, or the way he held my hand. He never stopped being my daddy.

This past year has been a blur of goodbyes to him. I thought, and I thought wrong, that I had said goodbye to him before he even left. I thought that since he slipped away slowly over time, that I was coping with his death before it even happened.

That, I've discovered, is an impossible thing to do.

Hospice isn't the place to say goodbye. It's the place to say, "I love you. I will be alright." It's the time to hold on tightly and brace yourself with your loved one so that they know that for as long as they are still breathing, they will never be alone.

Only in death can you really say goodbye. Even though he is gone, I keep having to say it to him. Goodbye.

I've been thinking about the idea of heaven lately. I'm supposed to believe in it, as a Christian, and I suppose I do, but I don't believe in any actual description of it. I kind of just have it in my head that it's a promise that after you die, things won't suck.

This week though, I've tried to convince myself of a more concrete vision of heaven. Somewhere over the rainbow bridge where my daddy and Susan's gram would be waiting for Susan to cross over and give them big hugs. Somewhere in a field where Watson, Kepler, and Chelsea would all bound towards her, greeting her with wagging tails and big sloppy kisses. Somewhere Susan could continue being Susan, just without pain or sickness.

I don't know though. It's just not coming to me.

Visions of heaven don't really help right now anyway. Right now, I just miss them. And that has to be okay for now. To just miss them. Daddy and Susan.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Everything there is to know

So this came in the mail today. A card that I ordered for Susan on January 22. Stupid slow post office.

I think that she knows everything there is to know now.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

What everyday is

We are home now. Services for Susan were yesterday. It was a mass. The service in itself was hugely comforting. I loved being in a mass and experiencing what Susan has come to love in a worship service. I loved sitting right in front of the nuns who Susan adored. I loved the music that the music director chose for the service. And the fact that it was his very first day on the job? Amazing. He really did a wonderful job.

I did get to sing for her. Not a performance, mind you, but an offering.

Not many people know that Susan had a really pretty voice. That both her left brain and right brain were equally remarkable. Science and math? Not a problem. Poetry and music? Also right up her alley. She was all about the balance.

On Saturday nights, our youth group hung out. Almost every Saturday night. There was a house on the church property that was just for the youth. We would watch a movie, play pool, have a game of capture the flag, or just talk. Many evenings though, Susan and I would go to the piano, and she would sing harmony with me on the incredibly cheesy pop songs I wrote. Think Indigo Girls, but on piano, we definitely liked boys, and we probably giggled way more than they did.

Singing is something we did together. There weren't a lot of things that we both did. She managed the soccer team at school; I was in band. She was genuinely smart; I was just good at standardized tests. I cook; she does not. But singing and writing? We did that together.

In fact, I still have a journal that she gave me in high school filled with really terrible poetry that I wrote about being misunderstood and boys breaking my heart. In the front, she wrote, "From one closet writer to another."

Ironic that her words would become read by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.

I'm totally rambling.

Here's the thing. I'm supposed to be coming out of this six month fog of worry and sadness. I'm supposed to be on track to getting things done around the house now. I know this. It's time to get better and get moving.

But today? The first day back? I get an email from Christopher's teacher at preschool. He's being defiant and wrestling at school. He won't keep his hands to himself and has no concept of personal space. It's not the first email I've gotten, and I have tried my best to work with them and help Christopher learn what is expected of him as he is growing up.

Of course, the first thing I would do after receiving an email like that is obvious. I would call Susan. She would talk me through what I should do. Not by telling me what to do, but by asking questions that led us to a reasonable conclusion.

Instead, today I just got pissed. I feel like I'm doing everything I know how to do for Christopher, and for freaking holy biscuits' sake, I'm not at preschool with him. I cannot control his behavior. I cannot be with him 24 hours a day. What is the teacher doing? Why is he acting out there? That's what I want to know, and I'm ready to go in on Monday for a conference with both barrels aimed and make an ass out of myself.

Susan would talk me down from that. Now I have to talk my own damn self down. I don't want to. I want to hear her say that it's going to be alright. That I'm a good mama. That Christopher is a good boy. That having a hard time at school is normal sometimes and that we will find a way to help him.

Why is it that the first day home has to be a day when I really really need her? Oh. Right. Because that is what everyday is. Damn.

For real. Tell me this gets easier. Even if you're lying, just go ahead and tell me that today.

For Susan

  1. His Eye Is on the Sparrow

  2. Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
    Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
    When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
    • Refrain:
      I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
      For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
  3. “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
    And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
    Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
  4. Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
    When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
    I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

~Civilla D. Martin

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

December 9

Dear Susan,

We started our blogs as a way to keep up with one another better. Everyday life was preventing us from talking as often as we liked, and the visits were far too scarce. Now though, I find myself unable to keep up with it because what I really want to say - what I would normally share with you personally - are things that you don't need to hear right now.

I'm going to miss you so much.

I was making gingerbread cookies this morning and planning our visit next week in my head. I have crafts to bring for the boys, cards to address with you, a copy of The Help, and I've been mulling over the best way to get your house to smell like Christmas. I've decided on a pot of Trader Joe's Pear Cinnamon Cider simmering on the stove top.

Doesn't all of that sound divine? Except that as soon as I ran down the list in my mind, my stupid brain added, "Because this is her last Christmas. I want it to be as perfect as possible."

Dammit. I try so hard to never think like that. You have taught me so much about living right now - right this very moment - and not worrying about when your last one will be. I've needed that. But it's a hard habit for me to break.

I started going through old pictures last night. I thought I might bring them with me next week, but then I decided that we aren't those people anymore, and we are living in the present. Right? But man, your hair was so long and gorgeous.

I'm sure we'll cry together next week. I don't see how we can't. But I promise you that I will remember that my sorrow is not your burden to bear at this point. You have walked with me and held me up through so much in my life.

It's my turn to return the favor.

I love you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

And now I know.

Posts I wrote over the past two months will be popping up. Things I needed to say, but it wasn't the time to say them. This is from December 8, 2011.

My best friend is dying.

Of course, by the time you are reading this, my best friend will already have died because this isn't something I want her to read.

When your best friend is dying, who do you talk to? I mean, she is the one I always called for everything. When my momma got sick, when my daddy got sick, when I got divorced, when I fell in love again, when I got pregnant, when I miscarried, when I need parenting help - always when I need parenting help - I call Susan.

I call Susan for everything. I call Susan for nothing. She is Christina to my Meredith.

This afternoon, I'm coming to grips with the fact that Susan is dying. We've known this for awhile now. It's what terminal cancer means. But Susan is doing a beautiful job of living with cancer instead of dying from cancer. It is Susan who taught me to quit mourning the upcoming deaths of my parents from terminal illnesses and start enjoying the time I have with them more. It is Susan who taught me that a terminal diagnosis is not an immediate death sentence, so love the life you have and live it to the fullest.

I love her.

I miss her today, right now. Not because she is sick, but because she is my best friend and outside of my immediate family, the person I would rather be with above all other people.

I miss her.

The thing is, I am supporting her the best that I can. My sorrow is not her sorrow to bear. She has her own sorrow. When your best friend is dying, you've got to find another shoulder to cry on. That doesn't mean that we haven't cried together - we have. It means that the selfish oh woe is me feelings that I have when I think about losing her - those feelings are not for her ears.

She has enough to deal with without me making her feel guilty for being sick and leaving too too too soon.

My prayers are for pain relief. I tell this to people very matter of factly because on the outside, and out of respect for Susan, I'm not praying for a miraculous healing anymore. I want her to be free of pain. It's that simple.

When your best friend is dying, you want to encourage her to fight as hard as she can, but you have to know when she has had enough. You have to listen more than you cheer. You have to stand by her decisions to treat or to stop treating. You have to be ready to let her go with grace.

I'm trying so hard. I'm trying so hard, but my heart is breaking into a million tiny pieces.

A million tiny tiny little pieces.

Monday, February 06, 2012

And so it is

So you're gone. And I'm doing laundry.

It's so surreal. And so wrong. The mundane things I have to get done today all seem so ridiculous and wrong.

It's a Monday. Colin is at preschool. Christopher and I were at the church in a meeting. I knew that a phone call from your home instead of from your cell phone wasn't a good thing. I didn't answer it. I couldn't. It wasn't fair to Curt to make him leave a message to call him back, but I had to know if it was him, and if he was just telling me that you slept peacefully before I could talk.

"Call me back."

I knew.

I knew this morning when I sat in front of the fish tank. I already felt you missing. Gone. Your fish danced through the water in front of me, and I mourned that you would never see my tank. I am so proud of that tank. Your fish. Your fish live with me now, and I care for them as best as I can. Just like you taught me to.

There are so many things I do exactly the way you taught me to, not the least of which is trying to parent like you showed me.

You made me want to be a mother.

Seeing you blossom into motherhood, knowing what a genius you are, watching as you continued to work and be a fantastic mother - made me want it all too. I wanted a family. You said, "Of course you do." I'll never forget your unwavering belief in me. You knew I would want, and should have, a family.

You always believed in me before I ever believed in myself.

"Of course you can." How many times did you say that to me?

My heart. I don't know how I'll put the pieces back together without you to hold me through it. You always held me through it all. And now, I have to do it without you.

I haven't had to do anything without you since I was 13 years old.

So I sit with those guppies, and I think of you. I try and think how you would get through. But of course, you were always the strong one. I was the flake. You were the rock and I was the willow.

I don't know what I'm going to do without you.