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Cancer

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 1:26 AM CDT

Hello, those of you who are still here. I've been struggling, not knowing what to write. Writing over and over in my head, but unable to bring it to paper...or pixels, I guess.

Coming home from Kelso after putting Zach on a plane to DC and Kenny & Kate on a motorhome to Long Beach...I passed milepost 158, just west of Tower Road on Highway 84.

That's where Dave hit ice on December 23, 1996 and wrecked the van. The wreck that started the journey.

We have a tradition of having a moment of silence and a prayer of thanksgiving as we pass this milepost, thinking of so many things....how Dave could have died in the triple roll-over, how my Dad had just fixed the seatbelt, how they might not have discovered the tumor without the wreck...in short, how a car wreck was a gift.

So I turned off the radio and prayed. Or if I'm honest, how I tried to pray. It's been hard lately.

Dave and I used to play the radio game. It's an annoying game of my invention where Dave and I would pick a song, like "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls or "Leah" by Donny Iris or "Somebody's Baby" by Glenn Frye or "Rock the Casbah" by the Clash...some random song, and then flip through the radio channels til we found it. The rule was, if you could sing along to the song that popped up, you had to listen to it before you skated to the next channel. If you didn't know it, surf away.

So after I left milepost 158, I turned on the radio.
"If You're Gone" by Matchbox Twenty
I think I’m just scared - I think too much
I know this is wrong it’s a problem I’m dealing

If you’re gone - maybe it’s time to go home
There’s an awful lot of breathing room
But I can hardly move
If you’re gone - baby you need to come home
Cuz there’s a little bit of something me
In everything in you

I listen. I cry. I sing along. The song ends, so I hit seek and move to the next song...

"Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
It's not warm when she's away
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
and she's always gone too long
Anytime she goes away

Wonder this time where she's gone
Wonder if she's gonna stay
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
and this house just ain't no home
anytime she goes away

And I know, I know...

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
Only darkness everyday
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
and this house just ain't no home
anytime she goes away


So I cry. And scream a little. I'm alone in my car, except for Duke, who doesn't seem to mind that the lady at the wheel is descending into madness before his eyes. He sighs a little and snuggles in to sleep a little more.

I think about that poem....
There are lots of versions, here is one:
Cancer is so limited.
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot destroy peace.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot suppress memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot steal eternal life.
It cannot conquer the spirit.

Limited? It has changed my entire life. Every moment, from August 23, 2005 on. No...from December 23, 1996 on. Every moment.

Can't shatter hope? Tell that to anyone who has had to call hospice, to come to that point of knowing that there is no more battle to wage, that the fight is over.

Can't corrode faith? Tell that to a mother who holds her child down for the thousandth needle stick. How can I not question faith in a God who is allowing my children to grow up without their father?

Peace? Cancer has caused so much strife, so much anguish, so much heartache. Peace is a small, still island in the midst of a hurricane, an island often completely under water. I remember watching footage on the tsunami right after Dave died, thinking that even the oceans were outraged, thinking that the wall of destruction mirrored my inner feelings. And later, feeling so horrified...my one anguish so pales in comparison to the complete and utter devastation experienced by so many, feeling so ashamed for being so wrapped up in my own grief that I couldn't even muster caring about anything else. One cancer wife told me that she had similar thoughts after 9/11...the irrational feeling that maybe the world would finally "get" what it is she was feeling.

Friendship...oh, some are like gold, aren't they? But even the best of us break down, fall short and aren't able to shoulder what we need to sometimes. I don't know a person who has gone through cancer or something similar who hasn't said, "Well, you find out who your real friends are..." We've all had the experience of losing a friend. And we say, maybe they weren't really all that great a friend to begin with. Not always. Like my dad has wisely said, "Some can and some just can't."

Memories? Tell that to Cathy, who sits with Lou, her memories unshared, having to break the news to him, fresh every day, that he has a brain tumor. For me, the memories are divided...my life is divided...before and after.

Courage...I've never been so scared in my life. I've lived in the shadow of fear for 9 years. I live in terror because there is still more I can lose. There doesn't seem to be a quota, a place where one can say, "Well, I paid my dues. Not my turn. Go hit someone else up for it this time."

Yes, it can invade the soul, it can make you doubt everything you ever believed, even eternal life, and our loving Father. My spirit is weary. I look down the road and see no relief, no rest, no renewal.

On a good day, and yes, there are good days still, I can see that most of what I just wrote about has another side, that often the sting is temporary, the pain, the despair coming in waves, waves that will once again recede and allow the sun to shine through.

(And I know some of you sent me that poem, and in many ways, I do like it and draw strength from those ideals, so please don't be offended or hurt by my thoughts here...but I have to honestly wonder if whoever wrote it ever really looked at cancer and the damage it does.)

So I turn the radio channel again, as all this is drifting through my head, and the tears are running down my face, and I hear....

Testify to Love by Avalon
All the colors of the rainbow
All of voices of the wind
Every dream that reaches out
That reaches out to find where love begins
Every word of every story
Every star in every sky
Every corner of creation lives to testify
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
I'll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough
With every breath I take I will give thanks to God above
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
From the mountains to the valleys
From the rivers to the sea
Every hand that reaches out
Every hand that reaches out to offer peace
Every simple act of mercy
Every step to kingdom come
All the Hope in every heart will speak what love has done

Faith, hope and love,
these three remain,
but the greatest of these is
LOVE.

And although Dave was each of those things, in every way, until his very last breath....he was
HOPE
FAITH
PEACE
FRIENDSHIP
MEMORIES
COURAGE
SPIRIT AND SOUL SURE OF ETERNAL LIFE
he was most of all,
LOVE

And in the end, it's what I still have. Love.
My hold on the others is tenuous at best, but love, this one I have, this one I believe, this one I hold.

Love, Shell






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