If you need to catch up on All Road Lead To New Glarus click here.
The next couple of months were a blur. I kept myself busy. I didn’t think I could deal with this; the slow dying of my friend, the brave living of her husband, the exhausted clinging of the children. I threw myself into work and “other things.”
Finally my friend J. called and asked me to go to the hospital with her. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. A woman in Sue’s body greeted me, like a sunset, red hair glowing like dying embers. She didn’t look sick.
“Hi!” Her voice was an octave higher than it normally was. This had happened after her previous brain surgery from the dirt bike accident, and it made me wonder, “Is this my fault? Did she get this cancer because she had that accident? It’s kind of strange that she would have cancer right where she had an injury. If I’d never invited her to my parent’s house, would she by dying now?”
Sue was smiling like a schoolgirl. Giggling and silly. She didn’t seem to understand. She seemed to understand more fully. She played with now four year old E. not as mom, but as a peer. There had been some damage Steve said. They couldn’t get it all, Steve said. Things would change quickly, he finished saying, eyes darting around the room.
“At least she has this time to be happy first,” his voice caught in his throat. “The kids have missed you.”
It was my turn to avoid eyes. “It’s been crazy at work,” the words fell empty at my feet.
Soon after my visit, Sue was brought home to die. I prayed for a miracle. I couldn’t let this happen, but it was happening despite my pleading. A few weeks later I went to see her. She moaned in pain, groaned in agony. Gone was the little girl in a woman’s body that I had seen in the hospital. Now she couldn’t put three words together. Her legs twitched. She cried out. Her eyes opened. She tried to say something. I held her hand.
That was the last time that I saw her. She died the next day. I was broken. I was relieved. I was angry.
A few days later, my son and I were in the front row at church for her funeral. I was seated with family and tried to keep E. quiet. She had gotten bored and was coloring a picture for her mom, but her mom would never hold the picture in her hands. Her brother looked ancient and tired in a grey suit as his father spoke. He spoke about what Sue would want us to know now that she is in Heaven.
How could Steve stand up there smiling? How would they survive; he and the kids? I wanted to shake them, make them realize. Sue was gone.
She died in their living room a few days before S.’s sixth birthday. Even though she had a death day, he would still have a birthday…and life does that. It goes on. One way or another, it goes on. With or without you.
To continue on with this series…click here.