Brain Cancer: Searingly sweet moments

One thing about this journey with Richard’s brain cancer, it’s not dull. The days go by in a blur of activity and people and small crises punctuated by sweet moments: snuggling in bed before dawn, talking about the day over an invariably late lunch, or just sitting side by side, holding hands and not talking.

Today’s searingly sweet moment came when I was doing yoga in the cusp between night and dawn. I had been anticipating the rise of the waning crescent moon, and got up between poses to look out the sliding glass door at the black ridge of the Arkansas Hills to the east.

And there it was, one horn of the thinnest possible sliver of moon sliding up above the hills. I woke Richard–these days he snoozes while I do yoga and my prayers to greet the day next to the bed–and helped him sit up and then transfer to his wheelchair. I quickly wheeled him over to the door, just in time to see the moon free itself from the horizon and begin to sail into the dawn sky.

“Can you see it?” I asked, not sure whether he’d be able to perceive the thin, glimmering edge.

“Yes,” he said, tears pooling in his eyes. “That’s the moon we share.”

“And have for a long time,” I said.

“We’re fortunate.” He slowly reached for my hand.

“We are.”

We held hands and watched that ghostly sliver of waning moon rise–until I remembered my camera. I dashed to my office to retrieve it and slipped outside onto the patio, my bare feet recoiling as they hit the cold flagstones. I braced my back against the house wall and my arms against my chest to steady my camera and shot a few photos.

Then I wheeled Richard back to bed with a stop at the commode on the way. He went back to snoozing while I finished yoga, and then I padded down the hall to the kitchen and measured out the grains and dried fruits for our hot cereal. Next, I gathered what I needed to bathe Richard and trim his beard, woke him, helped him into the wheelchair and rolled him down the hall to the shower.

By eight-thirty, he was bathed, groomed, lotioned–the steroids have dried out his once moist skin–and dressed, and sitting at the breakfast table beginning to eat. Molly came over from the guest cottage, my cell phone buzzed with the first hospice-related call of the day, someone knocked on the door, the washer alarm dinged… and the next time I had a moment to breathe it was time to make lunch. So the day went, one moment crashing into the next and the next.

Which is why I’m writing this blog post on the bed at the end of the day with Richard snoring next to me.

Only things have changed: I’m on our bed and he’s in the hospital bed that arrived yesterday afternoon and is now snugged right next to the bed he made for us when we moved into this house. The commode he uses now instead of the too-distant toilet sits next to his bed. Just outside the bedroom door is the fancy extra-light wheelchair he rides in for trips of more than one or two steps.


Our clan is gathering: Molly is in the guest cottage, here for “the duration,” and making herself useful in dozens of ways, from running errands to washing the outsides of the house’s 24 windows and 8 glass doors. (Thanks, sweetie!) My brother, Bill, my sister-in-law Lucy, and my youngest niece, Alice, drove straight through for a visit last weekend, leaving western Washington at four am on Friday morning and arriving here at seven am on Saturday. (That’s Bill and Lucy on the right rear in the photo above, Molly on the left, and my dad, who rode the bus in from Denver with Molly, in the middle. Alice was off for a run.)

My two eldest nieces, Heather and Sienna, are making plans to visit next weekend. Several of Richard’s nieces and nephews are headed to Salida as well–Andrew, his middle nephew, arrived this afternoon.

Today, the last day of Indian summer before a coming snowstorm, the grasses in our native meadow yard glistened gold and amber, and the blue sky reflected clear and bright in the water of my butterfly drinking basin–the first rock Richard carved, years ago.

Seasons change; life continues. That’s a comfort, as is the love that surrounds us. Thank you.