Michael, Orien, Chris, Suman, Kareem, Lauren
I’ve been holding back this post and sometimes not needing to write it but knowing it was coming. In early December 2011 Orien graduated from law school and was sworn in. We were really proud and happy for her and Lauren and her other friends who are now practicing attorneys. Always there are bookends for important times and they are often other important times.
In early December 2012 Riparia celebrated our 25th Anniversary together as an intentional community. However, on December 14th, 2012 our wonderful lives were challenged by the cancer that took Michael 22 months later. He’d been having a week of abdominal discomfort but that day, at 8am we were at Prompt Care to try to figure out the source of his gnawing pain. By midnight he was in a room at Enloe Hospital waiting for a biopsy that wasn’t done until the 16th because someone messed up and gave him a heparin (clotting prevention) shot that first night. The results– adenocarcinoma in his omentum, the bubble-wrap type covering that protects the abdominal organs. Then it was on to trying to find out where the primary tumor was but in the meantime he skied on the 19th, calling it the best ski ever. On the solstice he was back in the hospital after a procedure to scope his stomach and upper intestines failed to find the primary and he was at risk from a bowel obstruction. I wrote, “Sinking deeper into what is in each nuance. Fear in waves– deep, low. A rise, a cry- it doesn’t pass but I get bored with it and pick up my book.” On Christmas eve that year he started chemo on the oncology unit of Enloe Hospital. So scary. I emailed my family and Orien that we were going to be out of cell range and would get in touch after Christmas so were very much alone except for a few friends who knew.
Michael chin up Dec. 17, 2012
I can’t locate those photos… hmm… the Christmas tree in front of the hospital, Dave Guzzetti in an isolation gown, Michael with a few little wrapped gifts on his bedside table… what a time that was but still there were angels with us– nurses. Semina from Pakistan, Mesfin from Ethiopia, Belarmino from Uganda, Sue who is Hmong, Stephen… Soon Michael had found his stride with cancer and his “tai chemo.” By New Year’s eve we had met Dr. Graves, the surgeon who bought him what time we got and Michael had bought a new inflatable kayak. As I approach the anniversary of that terrifying long day, Dec. 14th, then that lonely, scary solstice and Christmas… I’m faced with me alone now in this comfortable home that Michael built, in the silence, with the memories. I just have to give it the respect and emotional power it is due for that was our life, our greatest challenge and we faced it together, with determination, problem solving and Love. It was our reckoning. Our grace. Our becoming. Our beginning of loss. Then by Jan. 1st we were out skiing. He never missed a beat on skiing the fresh snow despite the chemo and he’d have been really happy for this storm we just had and probably in the mountains first thing tomorrow morning if he were here embodied. And this time last year (here with Jenny’s son on the tractor,) he was still doing the Tai Chemo of relishing life, thinking, despite the recurrence of the cancer after the first round of chemo and the surgery, that he would live long and me believing in him and our shared dream of years of adventure to come… Looking back I believe it was just fine the way he lived it and the delusion I let myself believe in because he made wellness seem so possible, that was ok too. Fearlessly, in each moment, sweeter with each day, intensely.. death can take someone but there is something that remains of their spirit and I sense a freedom and celebration about the energy that was him and I can’t stay sad for long. I miss him. I love him. But, there’s no point staying in the past with the weight of this two year anniversary. The trauma of that time I’ve expressed here and I expressed it on the Veggie Voyagers blog when we were experiencing it. I’ll let the feelings be as they need to come up but know this writing releases them. (Remembering Brautigan… it was written in watermelon sugar and writ again, to paraphrase, but hopefully you know what I mean.)