Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Mom News & Poetry

My Mom called today to tell me I was off the hook for taking her to a 5PM doctor's appointment. I was relieved, it would have me driving from Gresham to rather near my house and back to Gresham, during some of the worst traffic. I didn't begrudge taking her at all and was glad I could, but I certainly was relieved to hear her doctor was needed in surgery.

Then she told me that the doctor was an oncologist who has treated her in the past.

It would seem that the stomach cancer she bested oh so many years ago is back. Or just a new cancer in the stomach. Either way, it is Very Bad News.

She's known for a few weeks now, from back when she was in the hospital the last time. They told her there. It had show up in her T cell counts, they'd looked there with some of the blood work they were doing.

She said she couldn't face telling anyone. She's only told her husband last week. I felt some anger that her great idea for telling me in person, because she'd wanted to avoid telling me over the phone, was to do so while on the way to an appointment with the oncologist. I'm glad she told me over the phone. I'm just glad she finally told me.

I've lived well over half my life, perhaps closer to two-thirds of my life under the shadow of my Mother's possible death. As a child it felt like icy darkness, dread of being forced to live the rest of my childhood with my aunt or my grandmother. I spent long hours sitting in waiting rooms, reading while she would get chemotherapy.

Cervical. Skin. Stomach. Breast cancer, twice. Who knows, there may be another cancer in there I'm not recalling right now. Additional problems too, angina & other heart problems, gall bladder, infections, cellulitis, and the list could go on. In and out of doctor's offices, clinics, hospitals. Always accompanied with dread.

The news hurt. It always hurts to hear she is sick, possibly hospital bound again. She doesn't want to go through another major surgery. I don't blame her. She's had radiation so many times they cannot really fall back to that. I don't recall her mentioning chemo. She said they've prescribed a lot of pain medication.

I remembered the last time she was sick and I mentioned it to Hogen. He reminded me that I know how to face this. I've had an enormous amount of practice facing the grave health of my Mother. How to keep moving forward in the face of fear.

So I moved forward. Running a number of errands we normally would have to cram into a weekend. Tasks made easier since I wasn't at work any more. The fear subsided. In it's place remains an ache, anticipatory grief for the loss that may possibly come sooner than anyone would like. Grief for myself, for bearing the burden of her fear of death throughout so much of my life. Deep grief for all the loss she's experienced, a whole lifetime of loss and very little joy.

Unsurprisingly the news has deeply touched my offering in the Poetry Challenge.

The Loss That Comes

The fear of
My Mother’s Death
Has shadowed
Most of my life.
I’ve grown older
Immersed within it.

I easily touch
My child-self’s
Icy, dark fear of
Being left alone.

I feel the grasping after
What was lost.
What never was.
What will never be.

I become aware of myself
Endlessly spinning around
The same mythology of

There is a certainty we
Wish to avoid.

We are dying.
From moment to moment.
First breath to
Last breath.
Every last
One of us.

The news comes
And the shock is
Still as startling and
Painful as it always is.
It subsides more
Quickly than when
I was a child.
Left behind is a
Dull, hollow ache of
Anticipatory grief
For the loss that comes.

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