She’ll Be Alright

Our phone conversations don’t occur as early in the day as they used to, because the dawns bring racking waves of nausea and heaving.  The lumps in her neck and throat are making it more difficult for her to swallow (dysphagia) and talk.  Sustenance comes in liquid form, or the rare, occasional bite of something, neither of which is likely to stay down where it belongs.

Our calls are shorter in duration than they’ve ever been.  Not because we don’t have much to say to each other, but simply because she’s finding it more difficult to draw the energy up to vocalize the words.  It’s been an increasing struggle to enunciate clearly enough to be understood since having part of her tongue removed.  She’s worked exceedlingly hard at it though,  just as she has always done, in all aspects of her life. 

The words she does utter these days are expressions of love and concern for others.  What did our sweet Emma do today?  How are Talmage and Mindy?  Caitlyn and Justin?  Where are those two traveling this week?  Tell Michael I love him too.   Without fail, she always ends with “I love you baby”.  And my heart aches each time she says it, because I know it may be the last time I hear her speak to me.

She has all the legitimate reasons in the world to complain.  She was never a smoker but is racked with Stage 4 cancer in her mouth, throat, esophagus, and lungs.  Her condition is further complicated by a rare and preexisting inflammatory muscular deterioration disease, Inclusion Body Polymyositis.  That incurable parasitic debility, took up residence in her body about 15 years ago and has been causing progressive and severe muscle weakness and the wasting away of her arm and leg muscles ever since.   Imprisoned in her hospital bed, dependent on others for almost every need and function, her “life is good” moments are scarce. 

Still, and in spite of the tumors, her decrepit muscles, and the dysphagia related to the polymyositis and the carcinoma, she’s ever insistent that she “will be alright”.  Even yesterday, as she told me for the very first time that she felt “her time” was close, she followed up with those 3 words- “I’ll be alright”.

You kids gave me the best years of my life.  Those were the words my dear, sweet, and loving mother spoke.  And although I know I had my “good years”, I also admit to being a tremendously troublesome teenager for more than a few.  Believe me, the special emphasis on tremendously troublesome could never be over estimated.  But because I have children now myself, and with tears percolating up from deep in my gut as I type these words, I understand that even those trying times are not anything that I or any loving mother would ever trade, even for all of the miracle-youth-preserving skin creams or opulence in the world. 

I’m 700 miles away from her at this moment.  I wish that I could stay by her side and squeeze her hand, and tell her I love her over and over again until whenever the end may come, but the circumstances of life prevent that.  Today I pray that she won’t continue to suffer endlessly.  Today I pray that I’ll have one last chance to hear her say “i love you baby” and  “I’ll be alright”.

Peace and Love, Love, Love

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7 Responses to She’ll Be Alright

  1. Pingback: Because Cancer Sucks | This Pedestrian Life

  2. Pingback: Grief,Unsummoned Companion | This Pedestrian Life's Blog

  3. Nirmal Bajwa says:

    i will pray for your family and your mother

  4. Carol, this was a difficult read for me. I had to stop several times, walk away and come back to it. My beloved father died six years ago the day before Father’s Day of lung cancer and he had never, ever smoked a day in his life. On July 1st, if he were still alive, we would be celebrating our birthdays together, so your blog touched me deeply; impacted my day and brought an awareness to me of the depth of my sadness, grief and loss that I still feel even now because of his ‘physical’ passing. So I took time out this afternoon, sat outside on my meditation rock and felt the depth of my sorrow, became aware of things left unspoken (thankfully, not much), got in touch with of all the love I wouldn’t be able to give him or get from him in this lifetime, and all the hurts and disappointments touching my life that I won’t be able to share with him. I felt the sun on my skin, the breeze in my hair and listened to the music of nature surrounding me. I felt the pain gripping my heart and I began to allow my breath to soften and loosen its grip.
    Then I thought of you, my new cyberspace friend. I became intimately aware of your pain and the places in your life where you feel sadness, hurt and loss. I’ve always known that pain connects us in this life; mirroring the sorrows we carry every day inside ourselves.
    We take our first step out of isolation when we speak to others about what is most deeply true in our hearts. Thank you for this blog, for your truth, your pain, your impending loss. Thank you for helping me to heal my own pain, my own loss and my grief.
    Much heartfelt gratitude for reminding me that life begets life and that those I love stay in my heart and live on in my loving memories of them. And perhaps, just perhaps…my love is still in their hearts and my memory lives on in them as well connecting us through the realms of existence.
    Take care of yourself. You and your family are in my heart and in my prayers.
    Much love,

    • Dear Brauna,
      This has been quite a tearful morning. First, the ugly cry and then the bittersweet cry of response to your heartfelt and honest words. I too believe that each person we come into contact with, whether in cyberspace or in person, has a lesson to teach us, a gift to give us, an alternate view to expose us to, and ultimately presents us with an opportunity to expand our consciousness. I’m honored, humbled and most of all, grateful, that my words, have touched you in ways that you’ve needed. I want you to know that your words have done the same for me. My heart is happy that we’ve connected and I truly appreciate your prayers. Those who enter our heart never depart. They settle into the spaces where they fit perfectly, and I believe they remain there in life and death. I look forward to continuing to learn from you, my new friend, who’s already found her place in my heart.
      Peace and Love,

  5. Michael says:

    Most everyone reading this blog entry do not know Kay but let me attest to how special of a woman she is…I can tell you from the recap of hundreds (or thousands?) of phones calls Carol and her mom have exchanged over the years while Carol and I were first dating and then married, she hardly ever (if at all) complained about her own declining health, even before she was diagnosed with cancer…she was always more worried about her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren or spouse / significant others were doing…I only ever get to meet Kay one time in person (Christmas 2007) due to her declining health and inability to travel but am so glad that we made the trip to Virginia that Christmas to spend with Carol’s family…Kay made me feel so welcome and loved and all that she wanted is for me to love her daughter…and as Carol stated, she always would tell Carol that “she loves me” and was in her thoughts every time Carol talks to her…the Ultimate Giver…I am so grateful that one of Kay’s last wishes was fulfilled when my wife got out of school and was able to take Kay’s great-granddaughter Emma to North Carolina to meet her along with Carol’s son Talmage and her daughter Caitlyn from Tallahassee who had not seen the grandmother in many years…it was hard for all of them to see Kay’s in her weakened condition but it did make Kay happy to see Emma and all them and brought some closure for everyone…Carol got some pictures of Emma with her GG Kay and to share with Emma as she gets older so she will not forget her…Emma always tells her GG Kay “I love you G Kay” when she is over and Carol calls her mom and that makes Kay feel so good…Talmage sends her pictures of the little girl which also brings her joy…it’s the little things you know… Carol’s is, believe it or not, a very private person sans this blog so this entry is a very raw and exposed of her feelings…I was moved to tears when I read it knowing how much Carol would miss her mom when she finally succumbs to this horrible disease that she has fought…there is nothing that we can do for Kay at this point except to keep her in our prayers and thoughts and for those of us that know her, never forget her memory…I know that I never will…I can only aspire to be as unselfish as a person as Kay someday…tell Kay “That I love her also…”

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