During my absence from these pages, I traveled to my hometown to see my mother, who is dying of brain cancer. Three months ago she was up and about, concerned about a pain in her back, but a woman to be reckoned with. Two months ago, after a diagnosis of cancer in her lung, she began chemotherapy. One month ago, ravaged by the treatment, she learned that it was worse than expected, and the cancer was in her brain as well. Two weeks ago, cancer was found in her spine, also: the cause of her original pain. One week ago, the cancer took her down to the mat, and the family decided to gather.
My family is a complicated organism. All intelligent, many artistic, every one of us as twitchy as the next, each in our unique way. Our mother is a powerful force with a gift for organization and a penchant for perfection. We have been well-trained.
We gathered, and pulled it off with near-military efficiency. Plans were proposed, decisions were made, information was disseminated. Food appeared when it was needed, without preamble or fuss. Schedules were synched. We were a hive of activity beneath a surface of quiet, supportive calm. We gathered, we wept, we laughed, we touched hearts and held hands. Those of us who, like me, live far away, did our best to say goodbye without actually doing so. We rarely say exactly what we mean in my family, or say it to the person who needs to hear it most. In matters of the heart, we are often indirect, and so we remain.
We created moments, for her, and for ourselves. We relished every smile we brought to her face, every tear we shed, and every comfort we could provide one another. I was, at the end of the weekend, immensely proud of my family.
In a few days or a few weeks, we will gather again. Afterward, we will be very different; we will not have that dynamo at our center, keeping our orbits in check. We must find a way to make the transition. We must learn a new way to remain together, else we will fly apart, separate worlds each on our own path through life.
But if this past weekend is any barometer, we will find fair weather again.