There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.
I’ve been sporadic at best in blogging, but in all honesty life has been anything but mundane. In fact “blur” is the only four-letter word that could adequately describe the past month and a half—well perhaps not the only four-letter word.
My family is still reeling from two harrowing losses, only three days apart—my Grandmother, the matriarch of our family and her youngest daughter, Dolores, my Aunt who was only 53 years old. The shock is still fresh—with the chaos of funeral arrangements and such, making it both easy to compartmentalize the grief while simultaneously making it hard to focus on the heart’s cry. I often feel like my life is sadly akin to my drafts folder—those half-articulated writings I fully intended to finish and publish, but instead they sit, waiting hopelessly for my procrastinating hand to press send. My drafts folder in life seems to consist of the many thoughts and pain, those areas I’ve started to deal with, but instead put them on the mental back burner. I guess some things are just too overwhelming to take in all at once.
Rain. I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the rain. It can be the very sound of comfort and nostalgia, rhythmically helping me relax and sleep at night. Yet rain, when you’re seeking solace under the warm sun—becomes disheartening at best. Though we can’t predict the weather, I can always predict disappointment when you wake up on your first day of vacation, to grey skies and the sound of rain pouring down on the roof. Over Spring break I arose to such a morning on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. It may sound childish, but inside I had a bit of a mental temper tantrum. I so desired some long overdue down time for the entire family—sunny opportunities to escape the responsibilities and realities of daily life as we know it. The rain was killing my buzz.
The Outer Banks was my escape plan. When you receive a cancer diagnosis, everyone in the family receives a cancer diagnosis. There, I planned to be still and enjoy beach life, while also taking a bit of time to reflect on the past year and a half—the challenges of treatment, and the challenges and triumphs of balancing family, work, life … and cancer. I was excited for my entire family—even my sweet German Shepherd, Miles—to finally get away from our chaotic daily routines and instead enjoy sun-filled, fun days … away from it all. My disappointment was soon turned around as the weather became sunshine and blue skies, blessing us with beautiful days amidst a surreal backdrop of fantastic beach and dunes. The promises and desires for that Spring family holiday lived boldly on the other side of the rain, and I will forever cherish the memories made.
Unfortunately, it was during one sunny day on our Outer Banks’ adventure that the phone call came in from Maine, informing us that both my Grandmother and Aunt were brought to Maine Medical Center, both in critical shape. We learned my Aunt had been brought into surgery to help stabilize blood clots that had formed around her lung and heart.
In the few days to follow, they managed to stabilize my Aunt and she appeared to be doing well enough to leave the intensive care setting to a regular hospital room. My Grandmother, however, had reached a point of finality in her long journey with Leukemia & rare blood disorder. After two and half years of (often weekly) blood transfusions, she was worn out. She informed her doctor she was done with treatment. We all knew some day ‘that day’ would come … but it’s never easy when it does. We all stood coping with the realization that Grammie would decline quickly without her transfusion and would now be entering Hospice care—in a long-term care facility in Portland.
Two days before my Aunt’s untimely death—Michelle, my Sister, captured the phenomenal rainbow pictured in this post, outside my Aunt’s hospital room window. My Aunt was fascinated with its beauty and in a short call with me and my boys that same evening, she said, “Just think, I’ll be going home, good as new on Tuesday.” I believe in my heart, that is just what she did. As the ambulance arrived to move her to rehabilitation Tuesday afternoon, amazingly to the same long-term care facility my Grammie was in, my Aunt coded. Gone at 53 years old.
She did go home as good as new that day to a place where she will run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint … have a clear mind—no longer battling bipolar-depression. Physically and mentally, free at last. We all joined together around my Grammie in those final days still trying to exhale the shock of my Aunt’s death. My Grammie went home to be with the Lord three short days after her baby girl.
We celebrated their lives in one service together…as they always were—together, for the past 53 year. Our hearts ache, though we find comfort in the knowledge that they are forever intertwined in Heaven—free.
My sister and I gave the eulogy at the service, and though difficult, we felt compelled to share our hearts even though we knew without a doubt we would fail to perfectly articulate the immeasurable and indescribable Mother, Aunt, Grandmother, Sister, Cousin, Great-Grandmother, Niece and friend found in the two beautiful women who have been an integral part of our family our entire lives.
Grief is the price we pay for love, just as it is impossible to capture the rainbow without the rain. Though I know I will find myself searching the crowds for their faces for years to come … the truth is I am blessed for the love and rich memories I will forever hold in my heart.
I am honestly not inviting you to a pity party, but my life has been seemingly under torrential rains since the dreaded day I heard the words ‘you have Stage III breast cancer.’ Tomorrow, I face the long reconstructive surgery exactly one year from the dreaded bilateral mastectomy. Though I would be lying if I said I’m not a bit nervous to undergo such a big operation … my heart’s desire is that it will bring me one step closer to seeing the beautiful promise only a rainbow can bring … on the other side of the rain.
Your thoughts and prayers for a seamless procedure and recovery are greatly appreciated.
Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.