Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Profound Exchange

My cousin died just over a week ago. We weren't super close. Distance and time separated us. He is about 12 years older than I am and has lived states away for most of my life. When I first heard of his diagnosis, my heart sank. Cancer. Stage 4. Mere weeks to live from diagnosis. 

I sent him a message through Facebook, our only means of communication that had always been quite sparse over the years. Again, we didn't really know each other. Decades apart will do that to people. 

I told him I was so sorry, and that it's just never fair, and my heart was with him as he said goodbye to his wife, and children -- all still too young to be saying goodbye to a parent, some being so young they may not remember much about their time with him as they grow up. I told him that I understood their pain. My own mom got cancer in 2013, also stage 4, also out of the blue, also given a death sentence. 

I wondered if my message would be thought of as too direct, too to the point. Most people, when my mom was diagnosed and began her quick march through the rigors of incurable cancer, would tell me things to make me feel better, but they usually made things worse for me. 

"Your mom is a fighter, if anyone can beat it, she can." 
"I have faith it will all work out for the best."
"We are never given what we can't handle by God, so she must be tough enough for this battle, don't lose faith."

After she died, they would say more, again making it worse.

"She's in a better place now. She's no longer in pain."

The truth was, all I wanted people to do so desperately was come into the dark with me. Acknowledge the awful truth of it all - she was dying, and no matter what any doctors did, or any medicines claimed to do, they finally admitted at the end there was no cure, and her life was cut short.  It was shitty, and I just needed someone to look at me and acknowledge that my pain was real and justified. 

So, I messaged my cousin with the honest sincerity of my heart, and I hoped that he would find it well. The last thing I wanted to do is hurt someone who is hurting more than most. 

After a few hours, he replied. His sweet response brought tears to my eyes, and warmed my heart all at the same time. Buried in the short paragraphs of his short but loving response was a simple message that spoke volumes. 

"I will hug your mom for you when I get there."

Only someone who knows their time is coming to an end, and only someone who has accepted his end, and whatever plan fate, God, or the universe had in store for him, could respond in such a heartfelt and simple manner. Also, only someone who is acting out of pure love would even think about what I want most -- a hug from my mom. 

His response during our short exchange had a profound effect on me. I thought about it over the next and last weeks of his life. When one of our other cousins sent me a message to let me know he had passed away, I was at my desk at work training someone. I saw the message pop in, and when I opened it, instead of feeling sorrow for his loss, I felt peace. 

My heart aches for his wife, and his children. They are without him for the rest of their lives. I know how awful that is, and I know what is in store for them for the next few years as they muddle through the darkness of grief. 

Maybe that little gift of peace was a sign for me, as a follow-up to our conversation just weeks before his death. 

He didn't know it, but I've had a resurgence of grief this summer and have missed my mom almost every day again, and sometimes have been overwhelmed with tears in unexpected places. Grief is cyclical they say, and mine has come back for a little bit, to my dismay. I've just wanted to see her face again, and talk like we used to, and the hole I used to feel in my heart has opened up a little bit. 

I sat there for a moment lost in thought picturing him giving my mom a hug from me, and the peace I felt was undeniable - a small moment of relief from my resurgence of grief. 

I believe he has made good on his promise. 

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