Thursday, January 28, 2010

Break Through

I had a break through last night. I was driving home channel surfing on the radio after the battery on my CD player wore out* and I came across this song about death and not knowing how to cope after a loved one has passed on. Obviously I started crying. But, it wasn't the chest-spasmed, blinding, ugly cry I cried during my phone conversation with my sister last Tuesday when I had to pull over into the emergency lane because I couldn't see through my tears. No, it was the silent, tears-running-down-my-face sort of cry when all of a sudden I realized, It's OK To Be Sad. It's OK to have to cry it out and it's OK if I have trouble eating or sleeping. It's OK, because it's all part of the grieving process.

(*Yes, I still use a disk-man to play CD's in my car. Don't be a hater.)

I guess my break through was that I'm not scared of the pain anymore. I am embracing it as a natural part of life and something that must be experienced right now. I am embracing and accepting it. I am at peace knowing that soon her suffering will be over.

I will most likely be in Buffalo this weekend and then again in another two weeks when my sister will be flying in. This is it. This is the time when every possible moment must be spent with her and making her remaining days more comfortable.

I have no idea how much longer I have with her, but I will make every moment of it count. I will not let the sadness overtake me or the darkness close in around me. I must be strong for her. For me. For my family. I shall conquer this.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Your Hands

I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn't there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That You would take my pain away
Oh, that You would take my pain away.

I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crooked lie
Oh Lord before these feet of mine
Oh Lord before these feet of mine.

When my world is shaking
Heaven Stands
And when my heart is breaking
I never leave Your hands

When you walked upon the earth
You healed the broken, lost, and hurt
I know You hate to see me cry
One day You will set all things right
One day You will set all things right

When my world is shaking
Heaven Stands
And when my heart is breaking
I never leave Your hands

Your hands
Your hands that shaped the world
Are holding me, they hold me still
Your hands that shaped the world
Are holding, they hold me still

When my world is shaking
Heaven Stands
And when my heart is breaking
I never leave
I never leave
I never leave Your hands


There are times when my dad throws up his hands in exasperation to whatever my problem is and exclaims, "What do you want me to do about it?" And there are times when he knows exactly what to do about it. When I don't even have to call out to him for help. When I'm navigating a winding South-Western Pennsylvanian road in the driving rain and he's there with all the right words and silences, knowing when to listen and when to talk. And his words are so cooling that the heated anger in my heart begins to dispel and I can once again, if only briefly, see the truth in what he's saying.

God wants me in Pittsburgh for a reason. I'm starting to think that the only reason is to be closer to Buffalo and have this precious, priceless time with her. To, as my dad told me last night, be her Simon and help her carry her cross to Golgotha. To somehow share the burdon with her, if only by cleaning her front windows and washing her floors, doing the dishes and sitting quietly stroking her hand while she sleeps. If only by sitting silent and listening to her life story and promising to remember after she has gone.

My dad told me last night that this is my legacy. This is the time for me to comfort her and support her...and when she is gone, I will remember this time and know how blessed I was to have it. And I will tell my children her story and the story of my life with her and tell them to remember. Remember long after she has gone. Long after I have gone.

I will remember.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Stages of Grief

I have settled into a numb routine. And to anyone on the outside it would seem as if I am a normal, functioning human being...albeit a rude and bitchy one. Why is it that I feel the need to take out my anger on complete strangers? And yet I am still extremely giving and selfless to friends even when they fail to return the favor. It's during times of intense pain that it becomes apparent who your true friends are; or perhaps the more kind term would be who your strong friends are. I understand that not everyone can handle the raw intensity of my grief right now. And I, being the good friend that I am, put on a show for them and pretend that everything is fine and I'm doing much better.

I am doing much better. I have actually slept the last two nights. And despite the raging sore throat I have today, I feel motivated to do more than just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. But, it's funny how there is still that small voice in the back of my head that is begging to be in control of something...anything. Chop off all your hair again. Color it. Get bangs. Stop eating. Work out for hours on end. Scrub the house until it's spotless. And while I am going to scrub the house spotless today and probably hit the gym, that voice is still small enough for me to control and for me to understand when the need to control is an unhealthy choice.

It's funny what grief will do to a person. They say there are stages of grief and what each stage will do to a person while they're experiencing it. I don't know what this stage is called...maybe something between denial and anger and depression. But, definitely not acceptance. Yet. I look at certain members of my family and either they are very good at hiding what they're feeling, or they have come to the final stage of acceptance. And I marvel at their strength. And I think, why don't I have that? And I wonder, how do I get that? And then I get angry again that they seem to have such a peace about it and I don't. And then I feel guilty that that probably means I'm not as good of a Christian, or don't have as close of a relationship with God right now. But, I don't necessarily know how to navigate myself to that safe place of trust and peace. I've been there before. I've been to the place where I am at perfect peace in Christ's hands and I know how amazing it is. So, why I am fighting against it so hard right now?

Perhaps this is just one more lesson, one more study on becoming the person I am meant to be. But, I'm beginning to wonder if all these steps and stages and chapters in my life will actually bring me to a final destination or if they will continue for the rest of my life? Where will this all end? And in the process, I'm still stuck on how to be at peace. How to be strong. How to not be an additional burden on a family who is suffering enough already. How to move past the Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression.

How to get to Acceptance.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Inevitable

I've had ideas and plans to turn this blog into something of value. And I might still do it. I'm on a nutrition kick and that's what I want to write about...but, I'm too lazy. Today is not going to be the day I turn this into a nutrition blog. Today is the day I write about cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer.

The deadliest, most painful cancer.

The cancer my Nonna has. The cancer in which 95% of the people diagnosed with it are dead within a year. Within a year. It's been 6 months. 6 months of chemoradiation and MRI's and CT scans and false hope, and utter despair.

A friend told me yesterday that death is as much a part of life as life is and that I should be happy that she has led a long life filled with love. Some people never have that. I am grateful. I'm grateful for every moment with her. I am not grateful for cancer. I am not grateful for how it is eating her life away. How the chemo is disintegrating her esophagus and makes it difficult to impossible to eat. How the cancer is ravaging her body and makes digestion, using the bathroom, walking a subject in pain. How she barely has the energy to get herself out of bed in the mornings. How she used to be the stereotypical large Italian mama and now she is nothing but skin and bones.

No. I am not grateful for these things and I refuse to accept this as a fact of life. I am not afraid of death. I am afraid of the pain. It is so intense that I cannot understand it. I cannot understand God. And while I will continue to believe in blind faith because it is the only way of life that I know, I am furious at him. Furious in the way a small child is furious at his parent for something that is not their fault, yet kicks and screams and pounds against them all the same. And at the end of it, all the parent will do is enfold the child and hold her while she cries. But, I don't want God to hold me while I cry right now. I want to take him out at the kneecaps for not doing a miracle. For not removing every spot of cancer from her body. I mean, he's capable, right? Hasn't she been through enough? Why is this happening?

I've been listening to this song by J.J. Heller which has been incredibly comforting, but there's this one verse that infuriates me: "When You walked upon the earth, You healed the wounded, lost, and hurt. I know you hate to see me cry. One day you will make all things right." Why isn't that one day today? And if He hates to see me cry then why the fuck is He allowing it?

I haven't slept for the past five nights. I don't even know how to function anymore without crying. I don't want to see anyone. I don't want to do anything. I just want to lie in bed all day and stare at the ceiling. And I don't think people understand that by doing that I'm not being selfish, I'm just practicing how to survive. How to survive this awful word. Cancer. What. The. Fuck.

I don't even really think there's anyway to survive this. For me. For her. For my whole family whose hearts are bleeding and raw from the pain. After seeing her over the weekend, I knew. I knew what my dad and sister and it seems like everyone else has known for awhile. This is her last battle. But no, I keep telling myself, she beat cancer before, she can do it again. But no, I keep telling myself, God isn't cruel enough to take her this way, she's meant to go peacefully in her sleep without the pain. Without the pills. Without the despair.

And yet, even though I know...I know that she's going...she's fading...she's wasting away...I still cannot get there. I cannot get to a place of the place of "she's lived a long, happy life, I am thankful for the memories." I cannot get resigned or even comfortable with the fact that this is inevitable. I am thrashing against it. I am beating my fists in futility and frustration hoping beyond hope that somehow my being so angry will make a difference. Somehow God will listen to my anger more than he's listened to my desperate, pleading prayers.

There is no way to prepare. So, I am left with all my nerves exposed, flinching every time someone touches me, or talks to me, or looks at me. But, apparently life goes on....or so I hear...