I had spent the day doing. Doing stuff. I went to town and had lunch with my boys and Lily and Hank. We went to Japanica and ate our favorite foods. The boys were themselves- little feral puppies who gave kisses and tussled and ate sushi and miso soup and wanted to sit on the comfy couch and by the time we were done, I was ready to come home but I had to go to the grocery store and I did that and I brought in all the bags and the things I'd bought two days before- Christmas presents for the boys- and I was exhausted in my bones and my soul. I put everything away and I scrubbed all the toilets and I did laundry and I swept floors and I made egg rolls and soup and I don't even know what all I did.
I did and I did and I didn't stop until I stopped and that was when I had my little breakdown/epiphany as sadness overcame me and I could feel anxiety trying to wrap itself around my neck.
Why? I thought. Why did I think it was the right thing to do to just push on through such a day when it was the day after one of my beloved friends had died? One morning I had kissed her good-bye and stroked her arms and hair and the next morning I thought I had to scrub the toilets?
Almost five years ago we began this journey, Kathleen and I. I was the one who heard a cough and said, "I think you have pleurisy," and she went to the doctor and he sent her to the pulmonologist and
I went to those appointments with her too and I was there when he so kindly and sadly sat down beside her and said, "We think this is cancer," and then Judy joined our team and we were there that day in the hospital when they did all sorts of tests to see what was what and the doctor came and told us that yes, it was cancer, after he'd watched what he wanted to watch on the TV in the waiting area- the World Cup! as we waited, and Kathleen grabbed my hand said, "Oh Mary! I wanted to be the friend who survived cancer!" and Judy there, right there too, who HAS survived cancer and we were all stunned.
And the oncologist in Tallahassee who couldn't even figure out where her primary tumor was and thus, had no idea how to treat her and didn't even seem to care and all of that chemo he'd given her completely useless. Those hours the three of us had sat there in the infusion rooms, Judy tripping on PTSD and me hating being anywhere near a hospital but we went, we chatted, we laughed, we ate the lovely tea cakes and cookies the volunteers brought around.
We were there when that stupid doctor told her that he knew he'd told her, he was certain! that she only had about six months, at the outside, to live.
He had not told her.
Her hair fell out and I was with her when she got it cut short and then she had one of my daughters (why can't I remember?) shave her head she found Dr. McCutie Pie and then the trips to Thomasville began.
This was a journey we were all on. For all those years. And there were ups and downs and you know what? I don't remember ever seeing her cry.
We had trips to St. George Island. We had parties. We continued with the Opera House activities. We lost our Colin. Kathleen's ex-husband died, she sitting with him as he did.
Her father died. She had met Bug, she married him, they did more in two years than most couples do in a lifetime.
And then the chemo she was taking quit working and she entered hospice and began to live her life without the damn stupid blood tests and scans and different chemos that threatened to kill her before the cancer could.
At first she was so thrilled and at the same time, afraid that hospice wouldn't keep taking care of her because she was doing so well, taking so long to die.
It all got harder and harder. And she did not complain and she accepted each step toward the end of this journey with humor and fierce brave acceptance.
And on Monday I sat with her and we knitted and crocheted and Tuesday she was in her bed and I could tell that she was standing in that doorway between this world and that world and the morphine was easing her fear and pain and letting her drift as she would between those worlds.
And Wednesday she died and they took her little body (she weighed nothing at the end, nothing) out into the sunshine one last time and I kissed her again and she was gone and on Thursday I woke up and thought I had to scrub toilets.
And what was wrong with me that I thought that? Life goes on. Oh yes. It does. Death does not erase the need for laundry and meals and it does not magically clean the toilets or water the plants or take care of the chickens. Not for the living, at least.
That is how it is. Right?
But as I was brushing my teeth last night, getting ready to take my shower, it all came over me and I realized that I was being ridiculous, a fucking idiot to think that I could just go on.
Well, of course I would just go on but one must pay the tax at the end of such a journey. There is no getting around it. Death, like birth, pulls the rug of reality as we know it from under our feet. There is a shift which cannot be ignored and if we try to ignore it, we are fools.
Today I am letting myself weep and write as I want. I am feeling what I am feeling. I am exhausted and who wouldn't be after that journey? It is gray and it is cold I am going to make some chili and some bread and Bug is coming over for supper tonight. He bought a train set for the boys and he wants to set it up, to give it to Owen and Gibson from Uncle Bug and Aunt Kathleen.
Or as Owen called her, "Kath-a-leen."
I might watch some more Keith Richards videos. Watch that old man with his silver skull ring that he wears to remind himself that we all die, that beneath all of our flesh, no matter what that flesh looks like in life, underneath we are all the same.
"Gold rings on ya!" he says, when he leaves the stage.
A Rasta blessing.
I might just sit here and watch the chilly gray sky, the bare bones, the skeletons of the pecan trees against it. I know that Kathleen is free and that has nothing to do with how I feel today.
It was a long journey. It is all a long journey. It is, at the same time, like the growing-up of our children. Some days, some nights, last an eternity. And suddenly, you wake up from a nap and they're grown. So short. How did that happen?
We humans are so weird. We say things like, "Oh, but she wouldn't want you to be sad."
Well fuck that. She wouldn't want to have left her beautiful home, her beloved, her chickens and dogs and ducks and the plans she had for gardens and trees. Didn't matter what she wanted and it doesn't matter what she would want, she is gone and I am fucking sad.
Life goes on, yes, but if I can't take one day to stop and let myself cry all I want then there is something truly wrong with me and truly wrong with this world.
Life is worth celebrating and we will celebrate Kathleen's life and I do celebrate her life and I helped her celebrate her life when she was alive.
But the loss of life is worth mourning and today I am mourning and the everything else can just go fuck itself.
I am paying death its due and to do less would be wrong for me.
Yes, we go on but sometimes we go on in grief. That is part of it.
Gold rings on all of us.
Bless all of our lives and let us live while we're alive and let us mourn when the living are living no more.