I said something yesterday to a friend that really made me think about myself and how I have been handling things the last few years. Connie just simply asked, "How are you doing, really?" Now, you must remember that most people ask "How are you?" and really don't want, or expect an answer. A rhetorical phrase, I suppose. But she asked and she truly wanted to know.
So I told her.
In the process of speaking, though, my brain was whizzing away. And then, I said it.
I told her that if I knew a person like me and what has happened in my life in the past couple of years, I would tell me to cut myself a break and quit expecting so much from myself. It made me really think about what I would actually say to myself if I could.
This is my conversation with me.
"Since 2008 you have been through breast cancer, a bilateral mastectomy and five other surgeries for reconstruction.
You fought tooth and nail, heart and soul to keep Kevin alive in 2008 while you yourself went through chemotherapy and the physical and emotional issues that come with it. You lost your hair and only cried a little bit about it. You lost your breasts in August of 2008 and handled that with dignity. A positive attitude and love from your parents, Kevin and friends helped you through it.
You did everything you could to keep Kevin somewhat healthy for the next two years-preparing gluten free foods, making sure he ate, badgering, cajoling, whatever it took and always loving him no matter how sad, sick or angry he became. You studied hard and got your Bachelor of Arts degree with a 3.89 average during this time. So much for "chemo brain".
Yes, you lost three friends in that time; people that meant the world to you, but who couldn't or wouldn't accept the changes in you and in Kevin. But you gained so many more people in your life.
You started a new job you loved last year, only to have circumstances and ignorant people ruin it.
You took care of Kevin in his last few months, never letting him lose his dignity no matter what. You listened to him, let him cry and cried in his arms. You "stayed close" just as he asked you to.
Through this, your own heart was breaking knowing you would eventually lose him, but you truly, truly did not believe he would leave you. You never, ever gave up the hope that he would survive, not until that last breath came at 6:20 PM on August 5, 2010.
You, my dear, kept your promise to Kevin and you made sure he died in the cabin he always claimed he built for you, long before he even knew you, because of a Gordon Lightfoot song. He died with you and Terri hugging him and talking to him, with the hawks whistling overhead. He passed surrounded by love."
I would say, " You have seen your father lose both legs, go through many related illnesses and lay in a bed in a nursing home for over a year and a half. You have watched his spirit slowly break. You have seen your mother's hope and heart be crushed by it all.
You have tried to help Kevin's mom through the horror of losing a child, Chalan with the loss of his father and the grief of Kevin's friends and loved ones.
Through it all, you had to deal with your own sadness at the loss of your best friend, companion, lover and champion."
And finally, I would simply say this to me:
"I can't believe your strength and I am so very proud to call you friend."
I hope I listen and believe.