Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hug the people you love like there's no tomorrow

Tonight I got to share some time with a friend.  Since I've known her, she's fought the good fight against the breast cancer ravaging her body.  I watched her go through so many terrible phases in the aggressive treatments they were giving her, but she did it with grace, dignity, a full heart, and a smile.  She never, ever complained, even when I knew that every cell in her body was screaming with pain and suffering.

I cared for her babies while she healed from each terrible dose of each horrible drug they pumped into her body.  They were always strong and hopeful, even knowing the terrible possibilities.  Even after seeing their mamma be so sick that she couldn't lift her own head.

Yes, she fought the good fight, and we hugged all the time.  We hugged each other, we hugged them, and we hugged those babies all the time, and we never once doubted that she'd survive.  She is a fighter, and you know what?  She kicked cancer's butt.

Over the next several months, she grew strong, her hair came back, and she had the golden ticket of life.  All that pain, all that suffering, it was worth it, because now she would get to see her babies grow up and resume riding her horses.

A few weeks ago, I took school photos for her babies, who had now grown in years since God introduced them into our lives.  She was strong.  It had been months since her reconstructive surgery, which you don't get to have unless you're well enough.  I was so glad that I could hug her and hold onto her without hurting her.  There were no drainage tubes, central lines, or any other medical equipment to contend with.  That was history.

The photos were done, and they were smashing.  Those bright little lights in those babies showed right through to the printed copies of themselves.  I couldn't wait for the reveal, because they were beautiful.  A beautiful set of photographs for a beautiful family.

On that day, we got the call.  The cancer was back, and it was more aggressive than ever before.  It was as if Death was so angry that she cheated him, he was going to make her pay for it, not only with the swiftness of her life, but the agony of her dying.

I was in disbelief.  Denial.  The more I thought about the stages of grieving, the more angry I became.  I wanted to scream, cry, punch something, and hug everyone I love like there was no tomorrow.

Now I dreaded the photo reveal.  I dreaded looking into the eyes that just weeks ago were filled with life, hope, and thankfulness.  I didn't think I could do it.  I almost thought of running away, or dropping them off in the middle of the night...no, I couldn't do that.  Who does that to a friend.

So, I strapped on my big girl boots, and did what every red blooded American woman would do, I made my husband open the door.  As I watched them pour into my living room, I almost completely lost my mind.  The kids were so happy to be in my home, they didn't hesitated to dive into play.  The husbands went into another room to talk about whatever husbands talk about when one of them is about to loose their best friend and life companion.

And there, I was, alone with my friend.  The changes in her body happened so fast.  I wanted to beg her not to leave, to push her to fight, to make her scream at the top of her lungs, but I didn't.  I sat next to her and laid my head in her lap and looked into her tired weary eyes, and they were still smiling.  Her grace and poise gave me a little peace.  Not much, but a little.  I wanted so badly to ask her if she was freaking out, but what friend would do that?  Instead, we just sat in silence for a long time.  She understood everything I was feeling.

After that, we made some small talk, like there was this big fat elephant in the room that we were ignoring.  I don't care if that cancer is the last endangered elephant on the face of the planet, I would blow it away if I had a bazooka.  I watched the babies play, and I never left her side.  I didn't ask the hard questions, because I already knew the answers.

Yes, she is dying.  Yes it will be soon.  No, nobody knows, but the doctors say 2 weeks to 2 months.  We can hope for more, but we shouldn't if it's too painful and terrible.

I'm sad.  I'm angry.  I'm way more than angry.  I'm angry in a way that only explicit language can begin to scratch the surface of, but I'll spare you any of that.  I feel guilty that I unplugged a little when she became well.  I'm lost because I don't know what to do.  I worry about those babies when the realization hits that mommy is going to be gone.  I'm heartbroken for her husband, who will be left with three little ones to manage alone.  I want to scream, cry, punch things, and freak out, but I know I can't.  I want to pray for God to take her pain away, even if that means taking her, but I can't bring myself to do it.  I'm in shock.

When they left, we hugged like we were saying goodbye.  As the door closed, and I was left alone with my tear stained thoughts, I was given just another big fat slap on the face as to how temporary, fleeting, and fragile our lives are.  Hug the people you love.  Hug them like there is no tomorrow, because you never know when there will actually be no tomorrow for any of us.

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