Monday, January 27, 2020

this time of year

Ironic to follow up the last post with this one, but they don't contradict each other - it's all just life.

It took me by surprise last year, although I should really have been more attune to it then, and this year again it took me a while to work it out. What is it about this time of year that niggles me, brings feelings of helplessness, of quiet sadness even in happy times?
There's something in the air, in the heat, in the bright light, something dark and heavy.

It was this time of year I was walking the last stretch of the road with Zahida. Those last few weeks of desperation, crippling exhaustion and sorrow. The sunny days seemed a mockery, the new year optimism like a kick in the balls. Starting the new year, new projects, felt disloyal and cruel. She would always ask, always ask about me, right up to the end, and genuinely seemed to want to know what was going on, despite how incredibly painful it must've been to hear.

The last time I saw her at home it was a really warm day. She was so lively, almost unable to sit still despite the air tube linked over her ears and in to her nose, she couldn't go longer than a few minutes without it. Her eyes, large in her thin face, were bright as sparks. She was full of plans, getting me to help her work out the hanging arrangement for a bunch of her children's art she wanted to get framed, hoping to get to the beach that afternoon.
I knew from the reading that I'd done that this was known end of life behaviour, despite seeming so full of life it was in fact leaving her fast.

Later that morning she tired, but insisted that I stay and sit with her as she lay down in her bedroom - air con unit and feather duvet on, she was no longer able to regulate her body temperature. We cried and chatted and sat in silence as she seemed to drift in and out of sleep. She had one last wish she quietly whispered, she wanted to die at home, she wanted to die in her room. 
For a long time she had despaired that her children would remember her as weak and sick, she hadn't wanted that, but now resigned that that was to be the case she really hoped to die not as a patient in a hospital, hooked up to machines, but in their home, as if to cement herself to the end in their family.

10 days later she was gone. In hospital, after a traumatic few days of goodbyes, and then more goodbyes and false lasts and and utter exhaustion and just a handful of distressing visits with her kids. Part of my initial grief was knowing how badly she'd wanted that to be different.


Zahida and I were members of the same book club. She introduced me to it, I was the 9th member, and for over a decade we met once a month at each others houses for dinner and books and so many laughs.
FOUR members of that group were diagnosed with cancer over the years. Stats which left us reeling.
Zahida's was the quickest, the most brutal, and last week I got the sad news that after years of fighting Lee-Ann had succumbed too.

Lee-Ann's was quick. She was seemingly doing okay, recently away on holiday with her teenage daughter. Hospitalised last week with a stomach infection, she deteriorated in a matter of days and on Thursday was sent home, nothing more to be done. She passed away in the night, in her bed, her mother, sister and daughter by her side.

I'd not seen Lee-Ann for a while (I gave up book club after Zahida died, it was the one thing too painful to keep on doing without her), and we were never particularly close, but naturally it came as a huge shock.
And through my sadness for her, and for her poor girl, I felt so sad again for my dearest friend -  and angered anew at all she'd suffered and how to the last that bastard disease wouldn't even grant her such a simple, so heartfelt request, to have her children remember her as vital and functional, to die in peace at home.
Fuck cancer.

This time of year it all comes back, the last few days it came back hard.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

rolling into it

I really like the sound of 2020.

The beautiful symmetry of the number, the sound of it off the tongue - gives me a jolt of optimism every time I think of it. I think it's going to be a good one, a redemptive and light one.
Rolling into it with hope.

There's a liberty in having no plans. Obviously there are plans, but I have as yet no hard dates this year, no deadlines.

There are currently only two goals.

Embark on the massive renovation we've been planning for years and fine-tuning for the last couple of months... and ... consciously relish this year with our girls.

I realised over the holidays that the girls will be 13 and 10 over the next few months.
It's Frieda's last year before she moves to high school, Stella's last year on the junior campus of their school after which she moves up to the senior campus (new teachers, new rules, new routines) in 2021. For these reasons and more this year feels like a pause in the known, a moment to breathe a bit deeper and move a bit slower together.
Rolling into it with enthusiasm.

Live. Love. Laugh.
Saccharine cliche on a kitchen wall, real 2020 goals in my heart.