Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 14, 1985

This was one of the worst days of my life. I was watching baseball in my brother's living room in South Florida. It was a beautiful day--sunny, dry, in the 70's. The phone rang and my brother answered it. The death watch was over. My mother's body had shut down a week after what the doctor claimed was successful surgery for lung cancer. I'd flown down a few days earlier and couldn't recognize the yellow swollen body on the bed. Hair unkempt, wearing a hospital gown, and without make-up. This simply could not be my mother.

Her kidneys were failing. I called her internist, whom I met once before. I asked what her chance of survival was. 10%, he said. I crumbled. So this is how it ends.

The next day was a blur. People called. Relatives drifted in. My father was a basket-case. We went to the funeral home, me clutching the outfit she was going to wear. I chose the dress she wore to my wedding. The color did not flatter, but I was sentimental. The casket was closed and she was cremated so the outfit didn't matter. No more clothes shopping. My aunt and I cleaned out her closet. I took many sweaters and some handbags, some of which I still use.

She had a full funeral mass, and afterward the immediate family went out for lunch. There was no burial service. The next day, my brothers and I picked up the urn and drove to the cemetery. After reading some poetry we'd selected, we left the urn by the graveside and drove away.

Last year, I went to the dermatologist on this date and had some suspicious spots biopsied. Two days later, twenty five years after we'd buried my mom, I found out that one of the spots contained leukemic cells. Another year, another nightmare.

Today I feel pretty good. I'm cancer-free and plan to stay that way.

You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now. Joan Baez


Ann said...

My heart is with you, Patricia.

Paula said...

You are a survivor...YAY!

Anonymous said...

Sending healing thoughts but I loved the quote. Thanks for sharing a part of yourself and your family with us.

Ronni Gordon said...

I didn't get it right away and had to sit on it overnight. Then I finally noticed the headline. Beautiful job.I realized that when the anniversaries of my parent's death arrive, I always do it that way: going to the moment of their death on then working out.

George Jempty said...

I remember you read something by T.S. Eliot and I read something by H.D. Hard to believe its been 25 years. I moved away from Florida the following month.