The weather is disrupting my inherent state of cheer; I am suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. This is a combination of two facts: I am too crabby to inflict myself upon the world at large, and I am hyper sentimental.
I have been following Donna’s Cancer Story by fellow Chicago Now blogger Mary Tyler Mom. I am moved by her artistry with words, and her strength in life. Her skill actually chills my ability to craft an interesting thought. But it is a haunting, brave story, and you will be blessed to read it. All of us navigate difficult things, but cancer in our babies is a ring of hell too cruel for me to contemplate. But her words of wisdom, sadness and strength could lay fallow in your subconscious being, to be at the ready someday if you or someone you love faces this kind of journey.
When I was five, my family of 6, including a pregnant Mom, moved back to the Detroit area from Albany New York, because my paternal grandfather,Leo, was very ill. Grandma Joliat wanted her wagons circled. Dad found a job, but we had no place to live. And so we all moved into her home in suburban Berkley, where she was caring for Grandpa. He had cancer. He worked in a tire store, smoked- who knows if his cancer was genetic or environmental. What I do know was that all they could really do is cut out tumors and slow the progress. They sent Grandpa home to recuperate and taught Grandma to shoot him full of morphine. I expect that the presence of 4 kids under 6 did not aid in his therapeutic environment. He moaned, but he never scolded or complained. Granny was 100% German, and strict. A look would make us wither.
We were good kids, but we were kids. Grandpa convalesced in the darkened master bedroom. I can still remember- gray bedspreads, maroon accents. There were apothecary jars of pearls in her bathroom, and I wanted desperately to empty them out and play with them. I did not. We were frozen in fear of incurring the wrath of any adult in residence. We would peep as Grandma administered meds. We had to whisper, because Grandpa was so sensitive to sound. I am positive that Mom was a wreck. She needed to find a place for us so we could enroll in school, and she could give birth to #5. At night, Mom would assemble us in the guest room and teach us prayers.
Angel of God, My guardian Dear, to whom God’s Love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and guide.
I did not know if I was comforted by having a guardian, or spooked by having someone watch me at all times.
The hardest prayer was the Apostles’ Creed. I was 5, it was long. It had words far beyond my vocabulary. However, it was essential to know, because the Apostles’ creed was the prayer said upon the Rosary crucifix. The Rosary was the goal, because it was the Blessed Mother’s prayer ring. And because saying it was a hypnotic way to get us to sleep. Now that I think of it, I guess sedation was the goal, not religious indoctrination.
To this day, if I am troubled, I pull out my rosary and work my way around the beads. A stubborn case of the worries has been known to cost me three cycles. To this day, the ritual is partly a leap of (lapsed Catholic) faith, and partly meditation. It doesn’t hurt to hedge my bets.
Hard times can be buttressed by faith, or they can dissolve faith. For Granny J, who lost an infant, a husband, a daughter before she was 50, and watched her son’s leg be amputated when he was a kid- faith let her soldier on, knowing there would be rewards for her suffering. She took her last breath when she was 86. If there IS a heaven, she floated like a helium balloon, having earned all her get-out-of-purgatory points.
I have not traveled such a treacherous path. As to the afterlife, as Catholics said in the pre Ecumenical days, I am in limbo.
I do know that had I known her, I would have been praying hundreds of rosaries for Donna. Check out her story. But maybe you should wait until the sun breaks through.