(Jeannie is now in her final days. Annie has, as she put it, “accidentally” written a blog post. Her text is below, and is, at her request, not accompanied by any images)
It was never a fight. The first time my mom had cancer she didn’t like to think of her body as a battleground. Instead, she told me she thought of herself as a garden. The glory of winning a battle is nothing compared to the beauty of any garden. She didn’t fight; she took care of herself, tended her health, and sought to restore balance. This time has been different. This time we knew there was only one outcome. This time the goal was to make the most of the time we had, to enjoy each other and our lives, to be good and gracious and engaged. Hope was different this time. We had total control over the outcome. We accepted our task of living, and yet it hurts so much now that she has reached her goal. Now she is done with living. She is no longer interested in what can be in this life. First her mind, and now her body has stopped doing what she wants, stopped allowing her to live the way she wants to live. And so she is done with life, not given up, not conceded defeat, but she has achieved her goal of living her life to the fullest. And this change is so painful to see because for me it was a fight. I wanted her to win, to get better, to stay. So I am called to practice letting go. Letting go not of her, not of my love or my hope, but letting go of my idea the there is victory to be had. No one wins this game. We all die in the end. The only thing we have is the meaning we create together by living and loving. And it hurts. Not but, always and. She has not lost, now she is complete. My mother has completed her life.
We think we can control our bodies because they rely on our volitional selves to meet basic needs, but this is not control. Throughout the last two years, my mom has remarked that her body didn’t get the memo that she was dying, and it still wanted to move, to walk, to get tired out, to eat and drink and talk for hours. Her body wanted all the same things it had thrived on before. But her capacity decreased. She could still walk and talk for hours, but the recovery time stretched to days. She could garden and mow the lawn, but that would be it for the week. And now, as she has completed her life, her body doesn’t know. She sleeps most of the time and loves to eat and drink. She is a completed person in a body that won’t let her go. This state is temporary. She changes so much each day, even by the hour, that I know this won’t last long. I don’t know what will come next, and soon her body will die. And always I will know that she is complete.