When art becomes the lesson, messages in the woods, and the importance of saying goodbye on purpose

Check out the defiance in her eye.

After attending the Memorial Day parade in the littlest city in the country (Vergennes), I was met with this beauty back at Greg and Mary Beth’s house. Greg had spotted her at the booth across from his at the Rhinebeck Antique Show. He struggled with whether to get her for me, her scarring a full on reminder of what’s coming.

I am so glad he did. She is looking straight at me, daring me to flinch, baring her scar with strength and honesty. She also has dirt all over her legs which I do too from the daily weeding that is my meditation. My broken sculpture muse.

Equally moving was his card: “Still Strong, Still Beautiful, Still Perfect”. Personally, I think of these more as moving targets but so appreciate the brother-love and confidence as I fly past the bull’s eyes, hit the outer rings, fly completely off the mark just missing passersby and occasionally nab an inner ring.

My message in a bottle was bolted to a glacial erratic

Spotted in the woods on a walk at Lake Willoughby

Walking the old Rte 5 with the dogs along the east side of Willoughby, the trees were still sparse enough in their leafing out that I spotted this massive rock with a tablet nailed upon it. As most of the homes are 2 season and presently uninhabited, I walked down a driveway and through the scrub to peer more closely and was met with this message:

“One who never turned his back But marched breast forward. Never doubted clouds would break Never dreamed though right were worsted wrong would triumph held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better, sleep to wake.”

Clearly I was initially taken with marching breast (or lack thereof) forward. But as I read on, it occurred to me how apt these words are to the way I live my life. Always sure that I can actively help right triumph, at that moment I was launched back to my childhood at Ragged Mountain where Lori and I would walk the nearby roads and brook collecting garbage that had been strewn there sure we were making a difference in the world, and later, as teenagers, repeatedly removing all the surveying tags in the woods where they planned on creating another housing development, sure what we deemed wrong would never triumph. Suburban guerrilla warfare. Lori went on to be a cop :).

I am an eternal optimist (mostly… can you be mostly eternal?). Though it’s hard to maintain such an outlook in these days with he who will not be named in my sacred blog, along with his hard to call anything but evil OWM cohorts, the kindness I experience everyday (even sans “the kyansah”) fills me with a perhaps unfounded faith that it will all (mostly) be okay. Sometimes that makes me feel just plain stupid as we careen toward Armageddon but I’m sticking to it. So apparently Charles Foster Kent, an old Testament Scholar, and I share that similar outlook on life. I continue to fall to rise, am baffled to fight better, I sleep in order to wake. Okay, actually I sleep in order to dream and then eventually wake after dozing for a few more minutes in order to see if I can dream again, press snooze (I suspect Charles didn’t have snooze), til it’s just too clear the dogs need to go out… THEN I wake.

But from where is this optimism born, and is it just silly at this point? One wonders.

Saying goodbye on purpose

“We had a Realtor’s Board meeting dedicated to Mary where we toasted her, but today is what really provided closure”
-attendee at Mary Fry’s Celebration of Life

This past Saturday was the Celebration of Life for my friend Mary Fry. Sad, joyful, funny, irreverent, it was a testament to her complexity, to the numbers of lives she touched, the love she put out there. And it was important. Because she was important. Many of us are in this weird place of not having the old traditions to fall back on when we lose someone. We are left with crafting our own, perhaps at our least creative time because we are so overcome with grief… unless we talk about it with our family and friends ahead of time, unless we take time to process before we quickly put something together to “put it behind us”.

Oh, I’m sorry. Was I proselytizing about MY BUSINESS and the philosophy from whence it came??? Yes, Mary’s celebration was my maiden voyage as a Celebration of Life Celebrant and Planner for Funerea Ltd. Co. I learned a whole lot logistically doing this Celebration (thank you Mary, typically giving pointers right to the end). The rest was evidence for my belief in how important saying goodbye consciously is, crying the tears, laughing the laughs, and doing it in community.

An update on the Kyansah…

…Seeing as this blog is supposed to be about my epic journey with IBC and how parenting one’s cancer out the door is an alternative to fighting a war with your body (let the docs do that).

I had my first dose of the trial drug Eribulin yesterday. Unlike the hours that it can take to infuse many chemotherapeutic drugs, Eribulin is pushed over 15 minutes and DONE! Which would have been swell had the whole of DF not been running 2.5 hours behind on appts. Lotta sitting in waiting rooms people, which I would put out there is way more exhausting than training for a marathon even when you have Dee as your Lexulous partner (she apparently hasn’t learned that you don’t crush your opponent when they have cancer, she’s a cold one, that).

And when one can stay awake, it is totally entertaining to listen to all the Boston accents. It’s crazy how just 3.5 hours south people speak a completely different language.

So, the cancer. Doc O. was pleased with my progress: “oh, your breast looks great, really great, just beautiful.” Why thank you Doctor! She reassured me that just because I mostly (anyone else counting how many times I have used mostly in this post?) feel almost fine, the therapy is doing its job and keeping my cancer in time out and even ushering it outside to the playground (the doors lock behind it, a sad picture I know, but there are playground monitors who are really nice).

As for what I am doing personally to parent these toddler cells? We walk everyday in the fresh air and play with the dogs, we eat whatever sounds good (I am the only person on the planet to gain weight with cancer but I don’t care b/c I am bigger than that (hahahaha, cracking myself up again)), we accept help when it is offered, we nap almost daily (luckily I had all kinds of training in that prior to diagnosis), we weed to meditate (2 birds don’t you know), and we cherish.

Oh, and even when I willingly go down the negativity spiral, like when I received an insurance denial for my first chemo treatment on Friday, someone puts their shoulder to me and pushes me back out. I called the insurance all ready to have a fight and talked to Donielle who said, Oh I am sure that was a mistake because we are just about to send payment on the following treatment. Let me follow up on that. It will probably take 2 weeks b/c we are really behind right now but I WILL call you back. If you receive a bill, just call me at this number. “Donielle, are you related to someone named Lisa at the Vermont Social Security Office?”

The better angels of our nature.


10 thoughts on “When art becomes the lesson, messages in the woods, and the importance of saying goodbye on purpose

  1. Do you keep notes on what you’re going to write, or does it just all spill out?! Please tell me it’s the former, because the beauty, depth and complexity for it to be purely extemporaneous means you are actually WAY out of my intellectual league as a friend! But then, maybe I’m the yin to your yang?? Ponder THAT, dear friend! xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loving this; love your power..I feel it! So, I think I was the only person with Rheumatoid that gained weight …Maybe it’s in the genes and a good thing…fat and happy…that’s what they say 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective, Mary. so much humility, grace and humor, as only you could do.
    go get’em tiger!!
    sending you big, sloppy love.

    Liked by 1 person

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