Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
by Linda Anson
I found this story written out long-hand on notebook paper in our file cabinet. I have no idea when Linda wrote this, but I'm going to guess it was in the summer or fall of 1993. There are a lot of scratch-outs and false starts, I've included them because they tell about Linda. -- Dale Anson
Cinda smiled a dimply smile, her eyes sparked as she leaned into the conversation. "I want to be remembered by some act totally outrageous."
"Well, if someone told me I had 6 months to live, I'd gorge myself on all my favorite foods and make love for days!" Cynthia returned.
"Right," Cinda said. "Like cancer is such a turn on!"
"I'd travel," added Linda. "Budapest. I've never been to Budapest."
The three women sat around a chrome table in the old deli downtown Moscow (Idaho). They were gathered for what would be their last laughter luncheon as a trio.
Cinda, 49, married, mother of five and a cancer patient, was about to begin an experimental cancer treatment. One last desperate attempt to put her cancer in remission.
Cynthia pushed back in ther chair, "You're supposed to grow old before you die." Linda and Cinda exchanged a look of understanding. Cancer was common ground for the two women. Linda, 46, wife and mother of two, was in remission from her breast cancer. She and Cinda had met a few months earlier at a cancer support group. Like Linda, Cinda had fought and won the battle against breast cancer. She had a bilateral mastectomy, chemo, and hormone therapy. Unfortunately, Cinda had a recurrence. This time, the cancer was in her bones and lungs.
Linda buried her tear-streaked face into the warm coat of her dog Grafi. The black lab leaned her body into Linda's, giving the comfort needed. Linda raised her head, wiped away the tears. "Oh, Grafi, how can you not miss someone who loved dogs and Disneyland and the very essence of life?" Her mind screamed. She got up from the couch and walked into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Standing at the sink, she shrugged her shoulders as if to shrug off the mantle of gloom that seemed to hover about her.
Sometimes I want to turn back time and relive days when things were going my way. I'd like to turn back to a time in my life when I still had both of my children living at home and I still had both of my breasts. It was harder parting with my son than with my breast.
Recriminations. Regrets. Remorse. Words of powerful feelings. Sorrow. Sadness. More works, more feelings. Where does one begin to put down in words the depth of emotion that one feels at the loss of a valued friend? I thought I was prepared for Cinda's death, she had terminal cancer. The experimental treatment she chose to pursue had slim margins of successful results. I guess I thought it was a lot like the lottery. You know you're probably not going to win, but you buy a ticket anyway. When your numbers aren't drawn, it doesn't come as a big surprise. Somehow, knowing all the odds, I was still unprepared for the magnitude of the loss I felt when she died.
Cinda came into my life just a few short months ago. I met her on a warm evening in early spring. I had walked the few short blocks from my house to the Hospice office to attend my first cancer support meeting. We all sat around a table and our "leader" asked if we would each introduce ourselved and state our medical cases that had brought us to this place. There were 16 people crowded in that small room. Several were supportive family members, the rest like me all had or had had cancer. As they started introducing themselves around the table and describing their various cancers, treatments, and stages, I was overwhelmed by their calm recitations of life threatening conditions. I was so new to this arena at the time, I didn't even understand the significance of the statements. When Cinda spoke, I paid close attention because she, like me, had had breast cancer.
Cinda told of her bilateral mastectomy several years ago and her chemo. She spoke of recently discovering a lump on her collar bone and having some tests run.
I hadn't started chemo yet. I didn't know that breast cancer could end up anywhere but in your breasts. The depth of my ignorance about my own condition became clearly aware to me that night. Over the next few weeks I would learn a great deal about cancer. I would learn even more about the courage, compassion, and genuine concern of the cancer victims. Cinda became my educator, my cheerleader, and my friend. When they discovered her cancer had recurred, this time in her bones and lungs, I was still an innocent in that diagnosis. My first reaction was fear. If this could happen to Cinda, this could happen to me. Cinda instinctively felt my fear and shielded me from the starkness of her condition. A few months ago she told me they could not cure her but the treatment she was taking could give her more time. I guess I wanted to believe that meant years. It was only after her death that I found out it had meant months. I have deep regret that I did not work harder at being her firend. I just figured we had some time.
Over the months that I was fortunate to have her in my life, we shared a lot of feelings. She gave me a friend. Cinda liked to match up people. She and I and our mutual friend shared a lot of laughter over long lunches. Cinda always sent cards from her adventures. She drove to California in a pick up truck. She went to Alaska. She went to Disneyland. She went to London. Before she left for her final days, she sent out a card. She said she couldn't help feeling like she was going off to camp. Her amazing ability to see everything as an opportunity for adventure is one of the many things I'll miss about her.
Cinda once told me she wanted to be remembered by some outrageous behavior.
Cinda, my friend, you will be remembered by your outrageous sense of adventure, your outrageous ability to draw the most diverse groups of people together, and your outrageous ability to give so much to so many without asking or wanting anything in return.
I sat at your memorial and listened to your family and friends share their thoughts and feelings about you. Only then did I fully understand how truly precious your friendship was.
Sometimes you grow old before you die. Cinda was only 49 but her whimsical intelligence came from an ancient wisdom. The world was a better place with your presence.
While there will be a large empty space in my life for a long time to come, I can't help but rejoice in knowing the universe shines brighter because you are now part of it.
In memory of these wonderful people. These were the members of the "Life Boat", Linda and Cinda's support group. I don't know about the spouses, but I do know that all of the people on this list lost their battle with cancer. I believe that Linda lasted the longest of the group, and I am thankful for everyday that I got to spend with her.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I saw her go.
I held her hand as she passed on.
I kissed her forehead and told her it was okay.
I miss her.
I expect her to be there when I get home. She's not there.
I look for her calls during the day. They don't come.
Her last coherent words:
I leaned over her and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
I said, "I love you".
She said, "I love you too. I love you all."
That was Tuesday evening.
I think she left then.
Her body stopped working Thursday afternoon.
Where are you?
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Every time my sister and I spent the night, we would go up in her bed and have a talk. We called them our Hannah-Nana-Emma talks. We learned so much about each other…it was a golden ticket to our hearts.
Some more memories are her flying down to San Bernadino for my brother’s baseball game, making bread with her when I was a little girl, and our holidays together.
I will always remember that smile on her face whenever she saw me.
She was a wonderful person to us all.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Linda and I could revert back to being silly children when we were alone. We felt light as air and could forget all our cares during those evenings.
Many nights we sat up well after everyone was asleep and over a glass of wine, we laughed and giggled and got very silly, poured our hearts out to each other and solved the world's problems (in our minds anyway) ... ALL IN THE SAME EVENING.
Linda opened her heart and her home to me from day one and we quickly became very close. I will always remember and love the way she was always there for Nick and Sarah whenever they needed advice or encouragement ... and I remember that throughout the years, she has always let me know how Nick was doing because she understood that I worried from afar. I will always remember that she cared enough to think about that.
Linda was there for everyone in the family whenever they needed her ... she was a very caring, giving person, with a very sensitive heart.
I am proud that Linda considered me one of her good friends. I remember how she has told me many times how she felt blessed that Nick and Sarah brought so many people into her life and I feel the same. It's as if all the roads travelled by Nick was meant to lead to Sarah's door and Linda and I marvelled at the idea that I was born thousands of miles away from her in Ireland and somehow our paths in life lead us to each other. Reminds me of an old Irish saying: What's For You, Won't Go By You.
I will always remember my wise friend Linda with her head thrown back, laughing giddily at some silly thing we said to each other.
I will also remember the wonderful Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners she made and the care she took ... oh, and those wonderful pies that she and Dale made.
I will also remember the joy she took in her family, and especially how she took care of her Grandchildren and how she adored them.
I will remember her heart of gold and outstretched arms in welcome when I arrived to visit and how she called me Annie.
I remember that Linda knitted me a very nice Afghan type Shawl, which I now treasure and which I use almost every night when I sit out in the garden when it is a bit chilly. When I wrap that Shawl around my shoulders, I can feel the love and the care that went into every click of the knitting needles, and I will treasure it forever. Makes me think of and feel close to my friend, Linda.
I could go on and on, but I don't want to fill up the whole space, I'll just end by saying that my memories of Linda are of a beautiful, warm, sensitive human being and I feel honoured to have been her friend.
"What have I learned over these months? Don't sweat the small stuff, get over your tiny life crisis and just live. Enjoy the people you love, avoid those that cause you grief. Life is truly too short and there is no reason to hamper yourself with those people who do not have your best interest in their hearts. Laugh as often and as long as you can, it is really good medicine. Hang with your grandkids, your kids and listen to them. Soak in their personalities and savor each moment with them. Love your husband or your significant other with all the gusto you can muster. Remember that those you love also love you and this disease is just as hard on them as it is on you. I try to remember that the people I love will have grief long after I have been relieved of life's burdens. I must be kinder to them. I must give them the best memories I can possibly make for them. And I have also learned that all those I worry about are much stronger than I assumed and that I don't have to hide my illness, my pain and my bad days from them. They can handle it. I have learned that I am incredibly lucky to have such wonderful amazing people in my life. My friends are truly blessings. My family, well they are why I am still here and I promise to stay as long as possible. Love YOU ALL."