September 14, 2011, her 52nd birthday which makes her my age.

She discovers that her newest “symptom” is called abdominal paracentesis, caused by the metastasis of her rare cancer. After enduring nearly a year of aggressive chemo and radiation following radical surgery to save her life, she now receives the message that—other than palliative treatments to minimize discomfort—there’s nothing more her doctors can do.

My Mom, 82, tells me what we all know: “Life’s not fair.” Devastating news about family and friends is commonplace, as is the ubiquitous question . . . Why? Why is it that my life’s path has been strewn with roses while hers has thrown up thorns? Why is it that my greatest health “challenge” is living with celiac—a joke, really—while hers is now trying to stay alive with cancer? Why is it that she is the one to make me laugh on the phone?

Gustave Dore's engraving for Canto 31 of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy

She tells me how grateful she feels for her life and the experiences she has had, and that she’s not saying, “Why me?” While my insides are screaming, “But why not,” she confesses that, “Yeah, I’ll cry deeply for about a minute, and then, frankly, I get tired!” She laughs, deeply, and it is contagious.

I try not to feel selfish/guilty/unworthy. I share her gift of laughter, and believe–if only for a moment–in a Heavenly rose.


October 8th I learn that my dear cousin is closer than we all thought. Just two nights ago we spoke and she was radiating through my phone . . . talking of the sunny yellow room by the beach where she had her last visits with old friends (perhaps not really even believing that they would be her last, and still talking of visiting her Boulder friends once more) . . . and sounding exhausted, yet happy. The only thing I know to do is fly to her tomorrow, and hope that she will be there still.


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