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learning about loss: finding joy in sorrow

Side Note:

I’m taking part in the Writing101 challenge, which means this is a break in what I usually post. Day 13′s challenge relates to Day 4′s Post:

On day 4, you wrote a post about losing something. Today, write about finding something. Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.

Since I’ve already written a fiction piece about her, I thought I would stay with that topic and explore it a little further. The first part of E’s story is Learning About Loss: the Bottom Falls Out.

E and I in 2009. I miss you.

E and I in 2009. I miss you.

Finding Joy in Sorrow

E was always a joy to be around, and she didn’t change with her illness. She designated her long-time friend as the primary correspondent, updating everyone she could think of. The rest of us forwarded the news to anyone missing from the email chains. E was so outgoing that 100′s of people cared about what she was going through and wanted updates. In the end, we still missed people. Despite the email chains, two years after she passed I found myself breaking the news to friends who lost touch.

Christmas 2008, my best friend arranged for E and I to have a sleep over at her house while she was out-of-town. I remember picking E up, thankful I caught a glimpse of her from the street. Her fantastic curly hair was gone, the radiation creating hair loss and bloating her face. By the time I crossed the street, I composed myself, and pulled her into a gentle bear hug. Our night was wonderful, we spent hours watching movies, talking, and eating. Throughout it all, E maintained her positive outlook. Whether or not it was for me, I never knew. I saw her again the summer of 2009, when the photo was taken.

E decided to fly out and visit a bunch of friends on the west coast during fall 2009. She successfully completed one round of radiation and one year of chemo, and had a three-month break before her next chemo round began. We celebrated that her treatments shrank her tumor in half! A second round of radiation was out of the question, as it could cause more problems, but E was in high spirits. She found a cancer yoga program in BC that she tried, wanting to coordinate a similar program in Ontario. That’s the thing about E, her wish to help in the midst of her illness defined her. And despite everything else, she wanted to hear about my new relationship.

By January 2010 I hadn’t heard from her again. I planned to fly back in February for a long weekend, and booked the flight when I got a surprisingly good deal. The next day, the email chain forwarded the news. In her three-month break from chemotherapy the tumor regained its original size. E resigned to her death. l immediately changed my plans, and we made arrangements to see her while I was in town. To this day I believe the timing was providential.

When we met, I understood why she had trouble responding to my emails. The tumor killed her short-term memory. She couldn’t remember she was writing an email when she’d get distracted. E always joked she was a little ADD, but the tumor took it to extremes. During our February lunch, E remembered all our school days fondly, but asked a dozen times what day of the week it was. Her husband answered patiently every time.

I gave her one of my favorite west-coast treats, a bag of hand-made marshmallows. She tucked them away after tasting them, then promptly forgot about them until she’d hear the cellophane wrapper when she jostled her purse. Then she’d get all excited and try one, as if it was the first. It reminded me of our time in Rome, when she’d eat her stash of chocolate, the buy more to replace it. Though the illness ate away at her brain, E never changed, she just forgot things. We were lucky because we still had her, as she was, if only for a while. She was happy, despite the confusion. She found joy in the midst of sorrow.

I still remember her this way, and it was the last time I saw her.

How about you?

Was there a time when you found joy in the midst of sorrow? Please share your experience in a comment below, or find me on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.

4 thoughts on “learning about loss: finding joy in sorrow

  1. Wow. Beautiful story.
    Death can always teach us something about living life. We have to see past the sorrow to learn those lessons. Your post demonstrates that nicely.

    • For people in my inutdsry, this is a tough question to answer. People typically become our clients because they are elderly and not in the best of health. It is rare that we have a client for more than a year. The reason we normally part ways with our clients is they pass away. I know this sounds morbid, but is a fact of life for people who do what we do.I am sure you are reading this and are asking yourself Wow, that’s depressing. How do you deal with that day in and day out? First of all, there is a real need for what we do. I know this because the family members of our clients will tell us how much in meant to them to have us provide respite from the constant care their loved ones required as they were approaching the end. They will also tell us how much it meant to their loved ones to have someone there to provide companionship as they embarked on the final leg of their life’s journey.Once our client passes away, there is not much left for us to do except to say goodbye to the families whose lives we were privileged to be a part of. Sometimes , we are invited to pay our respects with the family at the funeral services. This is a real honor, and we usually take it to mean that we did a good job. What all of this means for us is that we know that there are families in need of in-home car. Providing around the clock care to a loved one in their final days is difficult, if not impossible in certain situations.

      • Thank you for providing round the clock care. My friend E had some of the best care towards the end of her life and I can’t imagine how people would have made it through without people like you.

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