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A Question of Recollection

For JT & T & Bob, who, like my Mike, have endured far more than anyone
should ever have to, and who still inspire hope & love &

And for Michael and John and Califmom, who's places I have been in and for whom
I feel so much compassion despite my recent inability to express it.

Something has ceased to come along with me.  Not the memories or images or voices of those close to me who’ve died, but my recollection of what I was like when they were dying.

I read about the young adults in my cancer world, their struggles, their joys, their treatments, their too short periods of living with no evidence of disease, and their occasional relapses.  Although, the relapses seem too frequent lately to be called “occasional”.

I watch as three vibrant young ones, two men and one woman, are dying.  One fast, with a wife that was me not too long ago and two kids I’d always hoped for.  Two others more slowly, their bodies battered and bruised and near broken from years of harshities, insults to a system more resilient then it is getting credit for right now.  One of those dying, the woman, will leave a best friend longing, a sister twin-less, young son motherless, and a devoted husband widowed, despite her attempts to stay as long as she can.  The other is making plans for his husband’s sister to carry their baby.  He might live to see his child, but he might not.  And he might not be able to hold hope, all the pain this continued torture of a physical existence he must endure.

Prior to her reoccurrence, I sat across from the woman who’s child will soon be motherless and shared a meal.  A meal, if you could call it that.  We ate brunch in a fancy San Francisco hotel restaurant and she had tea, breathing shallow and paranoid of microscopic infectious particles in the possibly undercooked fruit in the bakery scone she didn’t order, in the linen napkin folded by someone’s hand, in the air we exhaled her direction during deep, meaningful, resonant conversation she otherwise wanted to consume, if not for the germs; fearing death by mistake or happenstance while all efforts for two years were focused on avoiding that very event despite her body being pumped full of toxins and rescued by someone else’s cells.

I sat across from her, I’ve read about both hims, and I grieve for their delicate mortality, uncontrollably crying at night when I hear their news.  I joke with the one I’m closest with, though I’ve never met him.  I tell him he and his Michael should have a broad, and we’ll all babysit the cherubs.  I tell him I love him.

Some do but these are not people who have many, if any, more chances.  And I offer platitudes and clichés and “if I can do ANY thing, let me know.”  Those phrases that used to piss me off.  I know better, but something has ceased to come along with me, or else I ceased to go along with it.

Sarah Wenstrand
17 April 2010
after "Something has ceased to come along with me."
Death of a Son [who died in a mental hospital aged one]
by John Silkin