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.
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 Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.