Warm, Fuzzy Socks

My cousin is dying. She has a recurrence of leukemia and chose not to treat it this time.

She’s in hospice today, almost four months after she got the news. She lives 1000 miles away, and I have plans to go see her in three weeks for the event she really wants to attend – her nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. I spoke to her last week and her numbers were still good. We laughed and joked and talked about the serious stuff. We talked about the warm, fuzzy socks I sent her, and how they’re like a hug for your feet. We talked about me staying with her for the Bar Mitzvah (she offered, I declined), and we looked forward to seeing each other again. I was sure there was plenty of time.

I was wrong.

I spoke to her yesterday, and the day before. The warm, vital woman I’ve looked up to since childhood is there one hundred percent. She doesn’t sound sick. She’s lived for many years with Multiple Sclerosis, she’s beaten the cancer once. My heart wants to believe it’s a mistake, but my head knows it isn’t.

We’ve had her for longer than we thought we would. She’s had a rough road physically, but she’s also had many blessings. A wonderful husband, a gorgeous son who is already a man at fourteen, family and friends that adore and admire her.

I’m not going to be there when she dies. I’m not going to be there for her funeral.   I’ve decided to go for the celebration of her nephew’s Bar Mitzvah that we’ve all looked so forward to.  We’ll celebrate my little cousin becoming a man, and we’ll celebrate the life of my cousin, his aunt, who loved us all.

In the meantime, I hope she’s wearing the warm, fuzzy socks.


The Choice

I have a cousin who is the bravest person I know.

She hasn’t had it easy. She was diagnosed with MS in her thirties, but wouldn’t let her doctor write it in her chart until after she was approved for the adoption she wanted so badly.

She got her wonderful son, and he has brought so much joy to her, and to our family. Her disease progressed to the point where she can’t see all that great, and she’s needed help walking. But still she lives life to it’s fullest. Always has.

Then a couple of years ago she was diagnosed with leukemia. She fought it, hard. It took a toll, but she was well enough to kvell at her son’s Bar Mitzvah last year, and she clawed and scratched her way into remission.

Then, today, I got a call from my Dad I hoped to never get. The leukemia is back.

Of course we are all devastated. My Dad asked me to call my brothers and sisters, as he just was having a hard time with it. She is his first niece, and has always held a very special place in his heart. With my stepmother’s death just seven short months ago, the knowledge that he will soon lose another woman he deeply loves has left him bereft.

And lose her we will. She doesn’t want the chemo this time.

That’s a hell of a decision to make, isn’t it? Either path promises pain and sadness and tears and sickness and heartbreak and death. How do you choose between spending as much time with your child as possible or spending less time, but hopefully feeling better? Just making that choice shows more courage than I have.

I’m just filled with sadness that we’ll lose her, sadness that her son won’t have her holding his hand into adulthood, sad that I won’t be getting her silly/beautiful/poignant e-mails.

Sad that my aunt and uncle will suffer the loss of their daughter, every parent’s biggest fear.

But there’s really no time for that. We could have her another six months, at least I hope so. I won’t waste another moment.

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