When I was driving home the other day down a quiet, white, wintery road, I watched one single leaf float down out of nowhere and slide across my windshield. Knowing all the trees on that street have been bare since early December, it practically took my breath away. It was beautiful, simple, and elegant. It reminded me of you. I smiled.
Yesterday morning I wanted to do something really wild and crazy, so I reached in my jewelry box for a bracelet to complete my typical plain Jane work outfit. I found a silver one with a heart charm dangling from it that I didn't recognize. It fit my puny wrist perfectly. That never happens. As I admired it, I noticed a smaller heart beside it that was engraved with just one letter, B. Barbara. It was yours. I smiled.
Lately, I find that I'm weeping less and smiling more. It's a relief. Although, when I do cry, it's from that place so deep inside myself where the pain of losing you still lingers. It's relentless. It's messy. It's heartbreaking. It happened last night.
I was watching The Biggest Loser, but my mind was somewhere else, all because I suddenly had a small pain in my lower abdomen. My thoughts went into overdrive. Is it cancer? Am I dying? But I'm too young to die. Is it my ovaries? Do I have ovarian cancer like you? Should I get them removed just to be safe and not have kids? I think I can live without kids. I could always adopt. But your kids were your life's biggest accomplishment. What if I never feel accomplished? What if I die without achieving anything? Wait, what if I die, period? I don't want to die. I should go to the doctor's again.
I go through this daily. A pain in my armpit? Must be cancer. An ache in my abdomen? Oh, that's definitely cancer. The headache that I had for the entire day? Well, now that's a sign of malaria. Maybe I caught malaria in Belize. How quickly does malaria kill you? Maybe I should call my doctor again.
It. Never. Ends. I hate my mind. I just want to shut it off and be the naive girl I've never known before. For the past few days, I have been thinking about whether or not I should find out if I'm a carrier of the BRCA gene mutation, so that I can be prepared. But how much more prepared can I make myself?! I see my doctor for every ache and pain. I keep up with my annual appointments. I've done my research. I know the symptoms. I'm going crazy already acting like I have it. I just can't put myself through knowing for sure. I'm not strong enough to know. I can barely get by with my thoughts as it is.
As soon as a commercial came on, I started crying. Through my sobs, I managed to tell my friend I've felt obsessed with my health since you got sick over five years ago. Every day, I'm worrying about cancer, and other illnesses, and dying. I can't stop thinking about it. I can't stop wondering when my day will come; when the end will come.
"But that day won't be the end of your life," he reminded me, and my tears slowed. "Your time here is just a part of your life. So just live, and stop worrying about everything else." As our conversation continued, the weight that I've been carrying silently on my own for years slowly lifted.
He asked me why I'm afraid of dying, and when I actually thought about it, the truth is, I don't really know why. Everyone makes it seem like the worst thing in the whole world, and I never stopped to question if they were right or not. But... you did it. You died. And I know that's a odd scenerio to have an 'if you can do it, I can do it too' kind of attitude about, but it comforts me in the weirdest way. I decided, in that moment, that I need to stop living this life of fear. And when a day comes where I can't get it out of my head, I need to reach out to someone. Who knows, it might just change my outlook on life (and death) in the most positive ways, like it did last night.
"And remember, everyone dies."
"Wait... Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
After an awkward silence, we burst into laughter. I wiped my tears as The Biggest Loser came back from commercial, took a deep breath, and again, I smiled.
You are my strength,