Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Impossibly blue November skies and other possibilities

It's hard to know what to say about the last month. I could write a whole post about how every doctor you see when you've got an incurable brain tumor feels the need to tell you that you are surely dying. Or, as one kindly told my mother: "You will eventually succumb to this tumor." I could tell you that some doctors are gifted in their ability to communicate this kind of information clearly and humanely and that others are, well, not. I could tell you how impossibly beautiful the world looks. How the golden fall light makes the last of the leaves clinging to brown limbs seem somehow noble and full of promise in a season I had always believed to be an ending. How I cannot imagine what it would be like to look at the deep blue autumn sky and know that it will be my last November.

We all know we will die someday. But how does one live each day knowing that death is hovering nearby? Mentioning this to a friend he reminded me of how the Buddhists meditate on death so they can live more fully in the moment. That's what each day has been like since we got the awful news at the end of September: a meditation on death. Hard, but oddly full of peace, like the rest at the end of a long exhale.

When we got the news my brother asked me what I will do to cope and I replied without thinking: "I will live". My kids make it easy to keep that promise. They are so full of life and energy and hope and promise that I find myself craving their company.

Sami came in the house yesterday and breathlessly asked if he could use the umbrella so that he might glide gently to the ground when he jumped from the porch. Go ahead, I told him, knowing that in his mind the world is full of possibilities. And who am I to argue? I look at him and agree. Yes, it's possible: one day he might fly.

Oliver started working with a local university math professor a few weeks ago. He told her that he wants to learn algebra, geometry and calculus. He has surpassed my ability to teach him. When I come home each night from taking care of my mother he is already asleep. I go to him and adjust the covers, gently setting aside the heavy algebra book nestled next to him on the pillows. I can't get over how his face is changing, how he is growing and how full of possibilities the world seems for him.

A few weeks ago I was pretty angry that my mother's life has to end this way. I found myself wishing that if she couldn't die of old age that she could at least be taken from us quickly. But now I'm thankful for the time I have with her, for the chance to take care of her and to just sit with her quietly and to talk about the impossibly blue November sky. I've stopped trying to wrap my mind around what is happening. When I look at my kids I know that there exists a whole world of possibility-- of good things to come -- that I can't even begin to imagine. And maybe, just maybe, that's true of most things.


  1. It's been quite a year for you Christine. I'm wishing I could see you in person soon to give you a big hug for all that has happened. This is beautifully written.

  2. This is beautifully written and I am so sorry for the pain you are going through. Tears slipped down my face as I read this. Thinking of you and your mom.

  3. sending hugs and love. xxk

  4. sending love to you, christine, dear. and blessings for this new year. i am so sorry about your mom. there are gifts in it, of course, as you so beautiful describe. but i wish i could wave my magic wand and have her well, completely, for you both to contemplate the impossibly blue sky together, outside, on a vigorous, health-filled hike. xxx