A critical error, one which too many of us make – sometimes over and over again – is believing we have time. More time. Plenty of time. A future filled with hopes, dreams and plans.
Then a week like this one happens and we know. We know the fallacy of this thought. And the knowing changes everything. Walt Whitman knew. “Happiness, not in another place but this place… Not for another hour, but this hour.”
You know, my Mum would have cautioned it never rains but it pours and such has been the story of our week. Four much-loved families, four bleak tales – of anxiety, illness, grief, fear and unbearable sadness.
ONE: The Artist
I hope you all have a friend like mine. The earth-mother; a nurturing, loving, caring, sweet, funny and kind girlfriend that is always up for a comforting cuppa or a glass of wine. A friend that listens with equal interest to tales of woe and success, that cares for you even when she, so desperately, needs care herself. My precious friend has been courageously battling what, initially, was breast cancer for the better part of the past eight years. It has truly been a grizzly skirmish – chemo was not kind, her body badly ravaged by treatments meant to cure. So many times I am reminded of primum non nocere and have thought her doctors perhaps ought to have done the same. This week, though, we learned that the cancer has spread and that they aren’t sure how (if?) to proceed. Luckily her children are both grown and married, but her darling hubby is scared to death and devastated. Yet The Artist remains beatific and determined to make the best of her life, no matter how long that may be. I am in awe of her spirit and her grace. And feel unbearably sad.
TWO: The Golfer
This smart and funny guy is a good friend to Cam. He, like Cam, is a lover of butter tarts but unlike Cam, his wife bakes them regularly (and hers are, by all accounts, world-class). Unlike Cam, he enjoys his time at the casino at Kawartha Downs. So much so, he’d often go there for brekkie and some time with the slots before his golf round. Should the round not pan out as hoped, he’d quit after nine and head back to the slots. This, of course, made him the brunt of much ribbing from Cam. The Golfer’s story is the same and yet so very different from my friend The Artist. He was bothered by some tummy aches towards the end of the summer last year. He finally sought advice from his doctor and the result was a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. His past eight months have been filled with trips to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto for treatment. Cam organized the lads for a mid-winter lunch in February and The Golfer was there – happy, positive and seemingly doing quite well. All smoke and mirrors for the other men, though. By then The Golfer knew that there was now a tumour on his cerebellum, and metastasized cancer on his liver. This week he was returned to our town and he is now in Palliative Care, not expected to survive this weekend. Cam has popped in and out of the hospital all week and feels enormous admiration for The Golfer’s good spirits and acceptance of his fate. And feels unbearable sadness.
THREE: The Statesman
We have a friend who has selflessly served our community for too many years to count. He is a friend to everyone, works tirelessly to make our small town a better place for us all, is kind, friendly, involved and present. We have the greatest respect and fondness for him. Sadly, this week he lost his wife of more than forty years to complications from diabetes. He is gutted. Of course, we do not know exactly how he feels but I suspect de Lamartine said it best: “Sometimes when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated.” Still The Statesman continues his work, his volunteerism, his devotion to family, friends and community. We feel endless esteem for his resolve and determination. And feel unbearable sadness.
FOUR: The Matriarch
As will ultimately happen for us all one day or another, it was time for The Matriarch to leave her home and move into assisted-living accommodation. You see, there have been health issues, both mental and physical – none terribly serious, just enough to preclude living alone. The Matriarch has an indomitable independent streak – it’s one of her most admirable traits but it makes this move much harder for her to embrace, to accept, even. We have talked several times since the move, and although she is putting on a brave, contented face to the world (especially to her kiddos), her sadness and disappointment are palpable, even over the telephone line. Yet she is determined to make the best of this change and to make for herself a new home, one she will eventually come to love as much as the one she just left. This woman has been loving-kindness personified to me. I feel über-proud of her grit and attitude. And feel an unbearable sadness.
“It is in rugged crises, in unbearable endurance…
that the angel is shown.”
God, if you’re listening, please let that angel be shown to these four families in this, their week of unbearable sadness.
‘Til next time, y’all…