I started writing letters to Sarah every few days and then sending them to her husband, Nelson. I asked if he would read them to her each time. I was not sure with all the extreme infection control going on if he would be able to bring a piece of paper in to read to her. Yesterday, as Sarah lay dying, I asked Nelson what she thought of all my letters. “I only delivered one” hesaid”I thought theywere personal between you and Sarah.” I was soto know that I would never get the chance again to say these things to her. With all my heart, I hope she knows.
March 15, 2013
To my dear friend, Sarah,
When you called me to meet for coffee, it was my birthday. I was leaving for conference in Philly for the next three days and was way behind in getting ready, so I asked if we could meet the following week instead. When I got back, I was really slammed with so many moms and babies to see, that I could barely fit them all in and being that my business has been poor, I did not want to turn anyone away. So, I saw them all and put off all school events, friends, my sister, etc. I never got to catch up with you until this morning, when I finally called you to meet for coffee as I was on my way home from school drop off. It was then that Nelson answered your phone and told me this awful news about how sick you are! There would be no coffee or talking today.
Sarah I am so shocked to hear this and so deeply concerned for you. I wish you had told me how sick you were and I realize now that you probably intended to, but I could not meet with you. I wish you had let me know that it was really important for us to meet, and that you needed some help. My dear friend, you have been there for me a million times over and over and through all these years! Have I ever been there for you? I’m not sure, really. I hope I have been to some degree, but I am not sure that anyone gives to you, Sarah, what you give to others. You ask nothing of anyone so it is always a guess as to what you might need.
I don’t know that I have ever known anyone like you. You ask nothing really of others, and yet, you are there always to give. Perhaps, this is to a fault. As a mother, you have always been the quintessential caretaker and I get this. As LLL mothers, we all adopted this “mothering at all costs” personae that has stayed with us even as our children have become adults. Your youngest, Patrick and my youngest, Gregory played together and when Gregory knocked Patrick into that huge baptismal tub in that church we had our meetings in, you never even got mad! Then came the saddest time of all. I believe you were at Gregory’s funeral and I know how much you cared for us then too.
You are such a beautiful human being Sarah, and ironically, one of the most spiritual ones I know, yet without a shred of spirituality. I say this because you embody all of the kindest and sweetest natures of one who is here to make life more palatable and more humanistic. And what a sight I beheld a few weeks ago when I got to see you holding your new grandbaby, Olivia! It was as if all had come full circle and enough years had passed that it was time to have a baby in arms once again. And yet, it seems like yesterday that you and Pam Gough stood at my bedside when I came home from the hospital with the twins. I remember you saying to me, “Everything will be okay now. You are home and in your own bed.” How right you were and as always, so loving and so kind. You pulled down the covers and helped me in. You had prepared the house for our homecoming. And then began the banana muffins, that sustained me for a year of hungry, nursing nights! Kindness and generosity again and always.
So, today Sarah, I have prayed harder and more deeply than I can remember. My prayers went something like this, “Dear God, please bring to Sarah the best, most knowledgeable medical people who can help her and heal her. My dear friend, Sarah has so much to do here and so many to care for. She has been through so much, both heartache and joy, illness and good health. She is deeply loved and needed, so please help her remain strong and regain her best health.” And then, a sort of prayer became a kind of yelling out loud at you that went kind of like this, “SARAH, SARAH, SARAH – FIGHT SARAH! You need to be here! You need to get well. Everyone needs you! YOU need you! Hang on, hang on, hang on. You can do this, I know you can. You’re my friend and I need you too.” I started crying as I was driving, because, I don’t know if I have ever told you how dear you are to me and what an inspiration you have been so many times. I know how you struggle with social interactions and it is sometimes hard to tell what is going on. But, I think we enjoy each other and our opposite social stratospheres.
So, Sarah, my heart is here with you as you fight these illnesses that have fatigued you so and knocked you down. You must feel so lonesome and alone and I hate that for you. But, I am confident now, after speaking with Nelson, that you are in a place where you are being cared for and helped to get well. I am here for you in any way possible. I appreciate you and love you and will keep yelling at you in my car until you hear me and turn around to head in the wellness direction!
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
“The stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own.”
“It’s not a competition, it’s a doorway.”
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
Much love dear friend, Ann
March 17, 2013
Dear Sarah – Today is St. Patrick’s Day and though I insisted everyone wear green, Sam of course, resisted this morning and wore a pink shirt! I was pretty angry, silly, I know. We went to church and I found myself praying so hard for you—I mean the scrunched up forehead, really concentrating type of praying. I got up in the middle of the service and went to light a candle for you, picturing your sweet and gentle face the whole time I stared at that flame. I know you don’t believe in this or in the power of prayer, but I do indeed. I feel that whether or not you believe in God, he believes in you with all his heart and is with you throughout this nightmare you are in, every minute and every step of the way. So, my dear friend, know that you have always been loved and are always loved now as well. That candle that is burning for you, is for strength and power and healing and for the right and smartest people to be around you to help you regain your health.
Nick, Peter and Oliver all came for dinner and it was lovely as always. We had corned beef and Colcannon (cabbage, onions and mashed potatoes combined) and my famous Irish soda bread that I have made for years. It was all delicious and there was such a nice, happy mood around now that my boys are healthy again. Truly a blessing!
Tomorrow, I am headed to Wilmington as my sister undergoes here 5th chemo treatment. They are changing the drugs tomorrow, so we’ll see how she does. I know you are well aware of how gruesome this can be. I will spend the night there and come back on Tuesday, and I hope I can be a help, not a hindrance. I am never quite sure that she wants me around.
Toni is really an amazing mother and she loves you so much. She really cares about your well being and wanted so to help you, but as always, you don’t allow others to help you very easily. I suspect that will have to change at some point. So many love you, so many care. We are all worried and want to do something. I call Rex daily to find out if you are still in ICU, but so far, I understand that you are. So, I talk to you throughout the day sending you vibes and lots of love, I will talk to you tomorrow as I drive to Wilmington! Love, Ann
March 21, 2013
Yesterday was the first day of spring! What does this mean for you stuck in your sterile, isolated environment? Well, for one thing – spring is full of the bursting forth of new life, of warmer and kinder air around us, and more sunshine. Spring is a resurrection in and of itself as buds bloom and old, dead leaves become fertilizer for new growth. I think all of this is so poignant for YOU, as you begin to peek out from under the covers into the light and into new life.
I think about you a lot and I wonder, always wondering what your life is like right now and how deeply you must yearn for normalcy. When I opened my car windows yesterday and let the warmer air in, I thought of you a lot. I imagined how the fresh air would feel on your face and how the most simple of things would mean the most to you right now. I thought about what it would be like to smell Olivia’s sweet head or to cuddle with your dog. I pictured your boys all around you, loving you, cherishing you, reminding you of how much you love them and they love you, along with your newest family member and female (hooray!), Toni, who has come to love you as a mother as well. I also have felt God’s loving, caring, life-giving arms around you, rocking you and holding you as you come back to all of us. I know you don’t have this kind of faith, but it really doesn’t matter, because no matter what, you are loved and God has been with you through every miserable moment you have had these past few weeks, and on into the glorious moments that await you! Like a loving mother, he rocks you in his arms tenderly, caring for you and loving with a boundless passion that requires and asks for nothing in return.
The washing of dishes, the sweeping the floor, the making the beds with fresh sheets, the preparing breakfast and onto the planning of dinner, the driving to and from this event or that – almost always linked to your children, despite most of them having left home. The shopping for more food, or supplies to keep the house running like a home, the tapping away at the computer learning and communicating and just having some fun and then always – aiming the darts into the bullseye. The meeting with your clients in the autumn of their lives ready to move into winter, which you will help them do with a gentleness you are known for. The walking the dog, noticing the earth, smelling the grass and the newly spread mulch all around. The taking of a deep sweet breath with no pain and no effort – just breathing and knowing that this is the most taken for granted activity we do and yet, for you especially, deeply valued and cherished for the rest of your life. New life, new vision, new gratitude for all of these things. I know that it is all of these most basic of tasks and acts will mean the most to you as you return to normal life one day, some day.
I keep thinking of you, keep picturing your sweet face and keep praying like there’s no tomorrow, which with God’s blessing, there is indeed.
Much love, Ann
Love after Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
~ Derek Walcott ~
Dear Sarah, March 25, 2013
It is Monday night and it is late. I need to go to bed so I can be up early with the boys to take them to school. But I wanted to share with you what I thought about tonight. We just came home from a Passover Seder at Cindi Freeman’s house. It is the third year in a row that she has invited the four of us and each year it gets better and better. It is full of laughter and meaningful readings and the most delicious foods.
There was a long table of 20 and it included Pam Diamond and Laura Farkas (though Pam was home with flu). While I had a wonderful time, I was also thinking how still and always, my closest and best friends have been through La Leche League. I mean, here we were tonight, some 18-20 years later and there is still a connection. My best friend ever, is still Joan Horn in Long Island who was my LLLL when I had my first children. We have been friends for over 30 years and I always still call her when I am in trouble or need a friend.
In North Carolina, there has been Pam Gough and Sandra Christensen, Nancy Albrecht and Lisa Malmberg, who I am still so very close to. It’s amazing really. And then, there is YOU…. You who have always been the most kind, the most gentle and the epitome of a LLL friend. I was remembering yesterday, how when I came to some church to help lead a LLL meeting (somewhere near Laurel Hills) and you were armed and ready for me to fall apart as it was my first meeting after losing Gregory. You were there with flowers and you were totally supportive when I said I just couldn’t do it.
I wish so much I could give you some of those flowers now. I wish that I could just sit with you and hold your hand and maybe help you picture that beach you are dreaming of lying on and help you hear the ocean roar in your ears. Imagine allowing that warm, salty water to cascade down your body and over your face with the warmest sun shining on you. Imagine seeing Olivia dip her tiny, pink toes into the ocean for the first time. Most of all Sarah, imagine feeling so alive again and so grateful for the smallest of moments and the ones most full of life and breath and joy. Oh, I want that for you so much!
Keep fighting for it Sarah. We are all here fighting for you, lighting candles, praying on our hands and knees, concentrating hard to bring you the strength and perseverance you need. If love could cure you instantly, God knows you’d be flying out the door already. Slow, baby steps, one by one by one and we know you’ll get there. The ocean and the beach await you with the open arms of an expectant lover.
Much love, Ann