One of my cousins is running out of time.
As I write this, she is in hospice care. Her skin is dark from liver failure, her blood poisoned from kidney failure, her hair and strength gone from the chemotherapy that attempted to stop her cancer.
She’s not all that interested in small talk. She no longer cares about being polite. Her children still bring a spark of light to her eyes, but mostly she seems to be in an internal conversation that the outside world is not invited to.
Jane is a normal woman. Worked all her life, raised two great kids, lost her husband too early, but basically spent life running around, just like we all do. Errands and jobs and obligations that tug at our attention until, before we know it, another season, another year has flown by.
Except now she can’t run anymore. All she can do is observe each new pain and sensation as her body continues to shut down. She must lay in bed day after day with nothing to do but face the reality of her own death.
I don’t know what she thinks about. I can imagine that she bounces between fear and anger and worry and grief and extreme boredom. It’s not for me to know. (Not yet at any rate.)
I didn’t have the heart to say this to her in person. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it would be a help or not. But if I had the courage, I’d have said this:
Jane, you’ve done so well. You have been a source of laughter and good cheer your whole life. You were a wonderful wife to Chip and a great mom to James and Amanda. I know it’s too soon to leave and I’m so sorry that you aren’t going to be able to stay longer. Your kids are going to be OK, because they are the best of you and Chip. And for once this big crazy extended family of ours is going to be useful because they will always have a home to come to on the holidays and people to care about them until they have families of their own. It’s not fair that you’re going through this. I hate what cancer has done to our family. But Jane, you have made a difference in so many lives, including mine. When you’re ready, we’ll stand by you and yours. All the way, and then beyond.
I’ve been in perpetual motion since my visit with her today. Doing some running of my own, trying to drown out my own anger and fear in to-do lists and chores. Running as fast as I can in a futile hope that it will help me live longer, finishing the race of my life instead of being pulled out early.
Running to avoid remembering how frail we all are underneath the armor of youth.
Running away from the grief that seems so small in light of what others are facing.
Running trail photo taken by me.