Monday, October 23, 2023

Pulling out all the stops

 "That was the hardest year of my life," my 15-year-old son said a couple of months ago, "the year you got diagnosed. I wasn't a kid anymore after that. I realized that sometimes the people we love have to leave." I thought about Trey's older brother who died at the hospital as a baby. Trey had it right; sometimes people do need to leave us, but that doesn't make it easy. 

Trey works to get good grades and helps with everything I need (including cooking—even if some of the concoctions are… exotic?—mowing the lawn, going with me to treatments, and more), but things have gotten harder again. Although I've lived longer than doctors expected, they recently found a new mass in my brain this April. Trey took this news especially hard but it worsened when our Doberman, Trey's favorite "person" on earth, passed away. 

"I'm so sorry," I said because Abby slept in his room and always seemed to make things better even when Trey was tired from helping out or really worried for me.

"I just want… I just want you to get better." Then he tried brightening up. "But I don't want you to worry about me. You have enough to worry about." 

Later that day, I called a friend. "Trey wants a Maine Coon," I said. "I don't know how, but I've gotta make this happen for him."

"You'll never afford one," she said. 

"I know, but maybe I'll find one at a shelter. Our Doberman just died. Trey has talked about Maine Coons. This would be something unforgettable; I at least need to try."

I heard a sob in her voice. "Elisa, this whole thing with cancer sucks," she finally said. She knows as well as I do because she's also fighting terminal cancer. "We're in the desert."

"You and me?" I asked.

"All of us—everyone this is affecting. You, me, our families—your poor son. He doesn't need a Maine Coon. He has what he needs: the best damn mom in the world."

I told her how much that meant to me, and we hung up, but hours after I'd spoken to her, those words kept coming back: "We're in the desert… You, me, our families." Natalie is not a religious woman. I'm used to that term "desert" somehow relating to God, but I knew she hadn't meant that in a spiritual way. So, what had she meant?

I found a place in Idaho that gives away one free Maine Coon yearly. I know it's a long shot because they normally donate to retired vets who really need a companion—and I don't want to take a special cat away from someone like that—but I did decide to try for my son. So, I called the owner, and we ended up on the phone for quite a while. What I can tell is this: I don't know if Trey is meant to have a Maine Coon, but I DO know I was meant to speak with that woman. She talked about hardships and overcoming tragedy. She explained how she and her husband were in a harrowing accident where they could've died and left their five kids behind. YET, they miraculously survived. And before we hung up, she said something about the desert.

That word again?! What could I possibly garner from Natalie's words and now this woman? It wasn't until this afternoon that I understood. I'd just filled out the application and applied for Trey to be considered for the Maine Coon—among so many other applicants. I'd opened a book, and the author wrote about the desert. David J. Wolpe talked about hardship and said, "… make oneself open like the desert … [knowledge] must seep into the soul." 

I've been in the desert, camped there, LIVED there (in Price, Utah). I remember going day camping with my brother; we ended up exhausted and thirsty. I appreciated water more that night than I ever had, feeling the taste of it and the healing power it offers. What's surreal is, that's what cancer is like. I'm so damn worried about dying that I'm doing everything I can to devour information before I'm gone: I'm speeding through books I had on my shelf but never read. I'm writing songs and books that I'd always left for later! And not just that, I'm trying to do anything and everything I can to leave something behind that will remind my kids and husband how much I love them. That's why I got stuck on the idea of a Maine Coon because it would be around and Trey might think, "Mom tried so hard. She got this for me. She... loved me."

But reading about the desert after hearing Natalie's words and then that beautiful woman on the phone, I realized I'm already doing what I need to and so is my family. Even in the face of mortality, hardships, and things far worse than death, we're still creating memories, somehow dancing through the fire, and showing that death doesn't have to be something to fear; it's as natural as being born.

I know God has a plan, but sometimes, seeing how tough this can be on my family breaks my heart. But I guess the point is that we're doing the best we can with what we have. Maybe we ARE in the desert, but it's giving us a thirst for the things that matter most: time with each other. 

Maybe the desert isn't such a bad thing after all.

1 comment:

  1. No one really knows what it's all about life you just do the best you can and hang on tight