|Snow and berries|
I'm struggling here to get started on this post, because although I know what I want to write about, it's not easy. First of all, on our hike last week I was walking along behind Al, and we were talking about how I celebrated my big day. As I've begun to explore other ways to celebrate than sitting down to a big meal, I decided to schedule a massage for my birthday, and it was wonderful. Al mentioned that his massage therapist had recently died, and I suddenly realized he was talking about Beth!
A couple of years ago when my regular massage therapist was temporarily unavailable, I asked for some recommendations from friends, and Al suggested I try Beth. She was not only a massage therapist, but also an accomplished Rolfer, so for three months I saw her regularly, and then afterwards I received three Rolfing sessions with her. We became friends, if only in a client/therapist sense, and two months ago she called me and asked me to have tea with her. She had recently been diagnosed with IBC (inflammatory breast cancer), and she remembered that I told her my mother had it, too.
She was in the midst of some aggressive chemo treatments and suggested that we wait until she was feeling a little better before our tea date. After two weeks had passed, I sent her a text and asked if she was ready for that tea, but she said she'd let me know, as she was pretty sick. Well, as things happen, I didn't hear from her again for the next few weeks, and then Al told me she had died. I was devastated, as I felt that I had let her down. I should have been more insistent, if only so that I could see her once again before the end. But she was relatively young and certainly healthy when I last saw her.
I learned that the cancer was well advanced when she learned of it, and that there was really no hope of recovery, and by the time we would have had our visit, she was already in Hospice care and knew she would not be leaving. Her memorial service will be next Saturday, and I will attend, as we know that these are for those of us left behind, and I need to have some closure. I spoke with her last on October 31st, and within a month she was gone. It was so quick!
When you don't see someone very often, you almost always picture them being the way they were when you saw them last, but as we all know, that's not always true. As I have thought of Beth this past week, I remember the feeling of her fingers pressing into my back. She helped me with some annoyingly persistent pain, and told me that she believed damaged nerves can regenerate. And my own pain was much relieved after a few sessions with her.
Last night I had an intense dream. In the dream, I saw little puffs of smoke coming from tiny holes in the wall of my apartment (although it was a different place than this one), and I called the manager to tell her I thought there might be a fire inside the wall. She ignored me, but I kept insisting she pay attention to my concerns. And then suddenly there was fire everywhere! I went to the bedroom to rouse my son Chris, who was still sleeping, and I pushed him out of the room. I remember throwing books and possessions from the window onto the ground below. And then there were the firemen, coming through the window with equipment to fight the fire. That's when I woke up, my heart hammering from the fear and excitement.
As I lay in my bed thinking about the dream, which seemed very real even after I woke up, I wondered if it was related to my anxiety about Beth having been unaware of the danger in her body as it was being destroyed by cancer. That if she had paid attention to the signs, maybe she would have been able to be saved. IBC is an insidious and aggressive cancer, because it doesn't form a lump and can travel through your entire system before it's detected, as happened to Beth. My mother was one of the lucky ones, since only a small percentage of people diagnosed with it survive more than a few years. The treatment, however, was what caused my mother to develop heart disease, which eventually did contribute to her early death.
Yesterday I attended a wonderful concert, the annual Christmas concert of the Bellingham Chamber Chorale singers. Al is one of the singers, and he had mentioned the concert in one of his emails. I really enjoy hearing the wonderful sound of voices raised in song, especially when they are so good. As I listened I felt a sense of peace and well-being in the room, with the audience as well as the singers engaged in a moment of grace. It's the season of dark days, but the wonderful twinkling lights everywhere, and the gathering of people together to share in such beauty for a little while, helps us to remember that the darkness is always followed by the dawn.
I don't know why I have been given the gift of long life, but I am reminded once again that it is not granted to everyone. Some of us live to a ripe old age, and others are taken early. But no matter whether it's a long or short life, it's important to cherish and appreciate every single moment. I do hope that you, my dear readers, will take some time to give thanks during this holiday season. I will be thinking of you while I am smiling into my teacup, thinking of that tea date that is waiting for me on the other side.