This has been my life. When I was thirty-two, my only daughter was diagnosed with a fatal childhood cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, a solid tumor of the muscle. We were told her prognosis was three years and chemo would be started immediately at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennese. Then we should take her back home to Atlanta and give her as normal a life as possible.
For three years we did just that. Our only son was seven when she was diagnosed and he became, by default, the unnoticed child in the family. Being sensitive, I knew what was happening, but was powerless to change any of it. The term, “finding a new normal,” had not been introduced in 1975, the year of her diagnosis. My husband’s father died of multiple myeloma the age of sixty-three as my child fought her cancer.
July 15, 1978, was a hot summer day and the one on which Laurie took her last breath. She was in a children’s hospital and had fallen into a coma. We returned home to a breathtaking silence. Six weeks later we had a new dog, a beautiful Bichon Frise named Tuffy. We got him to divert us as much as possible from the deep void around which we walked. He kept me busy. Took to eating his own poop and I would run around the garage lacing it with Tabasco Sauce to discourage him from eating it. A new world was being forced upon the remaining three members of our family.
I had been writing oneliners for Joan Rivers throughout the three years of Laurie’s illness. I never stopped, for writing would prove to be my solace. I also wrote a book about Laurie which was never published. That was the seed of my spiritual writing.
In 2000 we got Bob’s fatal diagnosis. Multiple myeloma, his father’s disease. Prognosis: Less than three years. This hit me harder than our daughter’s. Why? Because he was my strength, the one I leaned on when things fell apart. Between my assiduous caregiving and his determination to stay here to protect me, he lengthened his life after the diagnosis to four and a half years or so. Now the silence fell around my son and I.
It is 2011 and I have found my voice and my writing style. I know, I know. I tell the same stories over and over. That is how it should be. Not for everyone, but for me. The silence now fills in the horrors I lived through. It surrounds my daily life with an unbelievable beneficence. I have been told there is a large angel around me. Although I do not see it myself, I do believe it to be true.
Valentine’s Day is Monday and two of mine have slipped beyond the veil. It is here where I sit and write my essays. It is there that love inspires me to live each day with heart. Here and there are meaningless terms. The space between is where love lives.