Friday, June 24, 2016

Today It's My Birthday...

...Cue the Beatles song.

Last year I turned 50.  The big 5-0.  A big milestone, to be celebrated with much ado.  Unfortunately, I was still undergoing chemotherapy last year.  I was exhausted, had sores in my mouth and throat, and couldn't taste anything.  So my birthday came and went with minimal fuss. I wasn't happy about it, but what could I do?

This year, I feel much, much better. 

No reason for the picture, I just like it.
In the past, I haven't been lucky with birthday parties.  Summer birthday celebrations usually end up not happening, even for children who look forward to birthdays all year.  People are off on vacations or just don't want to bother thinking of anyone but their own family.  I stopped bothering after awhile, and started treating my birthday as just another day.  It's harder to be disappointed when you have no expectations. 

But this was my fiftieth.  Nobody else might care, but I did.  So I decided to do something. 

I'm celebrating my fiftieth.  A belated birthday, to be sure, but I'm doing it.  I called up a local restaurant, reserved the patio, and sent out an open invitation on the Book of Face.  I ordered a cake from a local bakery.  This afternoon, I will show up for my party.  I'm going to celebrate surviving another year, celebrate being healthy, celebrate being alive.  If anyone else other than my family shows up, I will be happy about it.  If it's just us, that's okay, too. 

More cake for me.  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sometimes You Just Can't Fight

These days, I read or hear of people requesting prayers for other people going through cancer, like I once was.  Since I'm proof that positive thoughts are helpful, I am happy to oblige.  But occasionally I'll see requests to tell a dying person to "keep fighting".   It bothers me, to see that demand out there.  I want to find the person who made that statement, and holler at them. They don't understand.

Their loved one has been fighting, dammit.

I haven't met a single person out there who, when initially diagnosed with cancer, didn't want to fight.  Everybody wants to fight. I wanted to fight. Every single mother looks at her children and wants to fight.  Men hold their spouse's hand and vow to fight.  We all sit down with our doctors, plan out our attack.  No matter the disease, we all start out with our fists raised, ready to battle.  We're focused on the goal, the prize of a healthy life shimmering in the distance.

And then...well, things just don't work out the way they're expected to.

Surgery doesn't work. Chemo is ineffective.  Relapses occur.  These huge bumps in the road wear us all down over time, and sometimes, it is just more than a body can deal with.  Sometimes a person with an illness just can't fight anymore.   Telling someone who is dying, who knows that they are dying, to "keep fighting", as if all it takes is sheer will?  It's just cruel.  Bodies are decimated, unrecognizable but for the spirit still flickering within. They've already given every single ounce of strength.  Even if they still want to fight, they just can't, not anymore.  They are just tired, they are in pain, and they want it to stop.

We need to respect that.  We need to accept that.  This is not the time to demand that a person keep fighting, no matter how much we need it.  It might be the most difficult thing we ever do, keeping our thoughts to ourselves.  We want to keep our loved ones with us, encircled in our arms, for as long as we can.

This isn't about you.

This is the time to stop thinking of your own needs, your own wants.  Your loved one is tired, exhausted, worn away.  They are also terrified. A long time ago, when a person died, they were buried with various treasures, gifts to take into the afterlife.  Our compassion, our courage, our strength?

These are our gifts. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

One Regret

My husband and I were married fifteen years ago, in April of 2011.  It was a busy day, full of joy, laughter, about 457 hairpins, and love. I have lots of fond memories of that day, with one regret.   I suppose that every bride does.

I don't regret having a church wedding, even though I would have rather gone to Vegas, because it made my parents happy.  I don't regret not choosing the dresses for the mothers of the bride and groom, even though my mother-in-law took weeks, and many phone calls, longer to find her dress than I did.  I don't regret not having 47 bridesmaids in various shades of chartreuse; five bridesmaids were plenty.  I don't regret having a wedding planner, even though she almost came to blows with the chapel coordinator over the adjustment of my train.

But my recessional was not Ode to Joy

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved that song.  It truly is an exhuberant, uplifting song.  Who could be unhappy listening to one of Beethoven's finest?  Whenever I thought about getting married, that song was always the recessional.   I pictured myself walking happily down the aisle, the inspiring music the perfect beginning to life as man and wife.  It was my dream.  All along, I emphasized to the organist at the church that I wanted Ode to Joy as my recessional.  She assured me that it would be so.  She never actually played it, however.  Not even in rehearsal, which prompted me to ask her, yet again, and to emphasize the importance of that particular number.   As the pastor pronounced Larry and I officially man and wife, we turned around to walk down the aisle.  I waited to hear the beginning notes of Ode to Joy.   Instead, we heard Mendelsohn.   Bland, tiresome, Mendelsohn, who has been played ad nauseum

I froze. I wanted to lift up my skirt, run over to the organ, and punch that old organist right in the face.  I wanted to make her stop playing that annoying drivel and play the song I'd been waiting for my entire life.   That I was willing to completely throttle a frail but passive aggressive old woman over the recessional was a sign of how unreasonable my anger was, but at the time I didn't care.  I wanted her to play the "right" song, the song I'd specifically requested, and I wanted her to do that NOW.

But my new husband, who had no idea there was even a problem, was already stepping down, heading for the door.  He had my hand in his, and I was forced to go with him, or risk causing a scene before we'd even made it out of the church.   As we exited, I felt as though that one woman had completely ruined my wedding.  I wanted to have the tantrum that would put every Bridezilla on the planet to shame, but it was too late. The damage had been done, and what was I going to do that would change anything?   I managed to calm myself down, and tried to focus on the rest of what was supposed to be a wonderful day.  

Obviously, I am not over it.  I know that I should just let it go.  Even fifteen years later, I still get upset whenever I think about it.  That's probably not healthy, to hang on to such anger for so long.  But it was MY wedding, and it was marred by a thoughtless organist who completely ignored me and did whatever she wanted.   I still want to punch that woman in the face, fifteen years later.   If Larry and I ever renew our vows and I finally get my wish to have Ode to Joy played as we walk down the aisle, I might let it go.  But maybe not.