Today, we attended my mom’s best friend’s funeral. Kat fought breast cancer for years, but ultimately lost. So many friends and family members attended the service… she was well-loved.
Witnessing their pain and loss had tears spilling down my cheeks for most of the afternoon. Her parents held up remarkably well, others wept openly. One of the people closest to her stood to give a eulogy and could barely speak through her tears; she was so brave to stand and weep in front of an audience.
The entire experience was heart-wrenching – being surrounded by such anguish… most of us know the acute pain of losing someone dear, and of having people we love lose someone, I don’t need to describe it.
I can’t see someone cry without crying myself; their pain reaches out to me and seizes my heart. This goes for any person, anywhere – any person, that is, except my mother. My eyes well up at commercials, but witnessing my own mother crying for her lost best friend elicits no reaction. This is the level of coldness I have reached, and there is probably a special place laid out in hell for just such a person: “Pedophiles;” “Murderers;” “Sociopaths;” “Rapists;” “Persons Unmoved by Own Mother’s Tears.” It’s our own twisted karma, playing itself out in unanticipated ways.
I am exhausted, but so cognizant my part in this is easy compared to theirs. My sorrow is only there merest shadow.
Being from the midwest, I expressed my grief in the manner to which I have been trained since birth: I came home and made a casserole for someone I love. It’s what we do here in the land of pot roast and hot dish. My expression of choice tonight – Cheesy Potato Casserole.
There is so much tragedy in this story, but two key related points stand out. When Kat’s breast cancer began, she did not have health insurance. She worked in the same practice as Mom, and insurance was too expensive. She had breast lumps she could identify.
Later, she met and married, and received health insurance via her husband. At this point, she began treating the cancer, but it had metastasized to her bones and elsewhere as I understand it. She went through rounds of chemo and radiation. In the end, she couldn’t have weighed 75 pounds. She died at home, in hospice care. Friends and family had been visiting her all week, and I’m certain she knew she was loved.
Compare this story with Shad, another of Mom and Kat’s friends. Shad’s doctor found a small tumor in her breast during an annual exam. She had a lumpectomy and radiation treatments, and she is alive and healthy today. The current controversy over whether annual exams are “worth it” stuns me.
In her last few weeks, it was fairly clear Kat would likely not last much longer. Mom and I took her out a couple of times, once for a wig fitting, once for lunch, and I wish we could have done more for her. One small thing that makes me smile – I brought her a big batch of pumpkin custard she had said sounded good. She wasn’t eating much toward the end, but devoured the custard and loved it.
Today, her daughter told me one of the last times Kat woke up, she demanded cereal most adamantly. Kristina was worried she would choke on the bits, and was hesitant to give it to her, which made Kat rather cross. Kris said, “how about some pumpkin souffle instead?” and Kat immediately said “YES.” I’m glad to have given her a few moments of gustatory happiness.
Even though she was so weak she could barely speak above a whisper, Kat was more concerned with Mom than with herself. She was generous and kind, compassionate and sweet. There are a lot of people who will miss her dearly.
After the service, her sister’s house was filled wall-to-wall with people eating, drinking, sharing stories and laughing some. Mom and I only stayed a few moments, but it was a lovely way for everyone to comfort each other and be together for awhile. My own large family gatherings have been a thing of the past for some time, and now, many years later, I miss them – though I never appreciated them fully as a child. Being an only child stunted me socially and emotionally in ways I continue to unearth to this day.
Kat’s battle and suffering is over – my mom’s continues. Yesterday, she said she wished she would get hit by another car and get it over with. At this moment in time, she has nothing to live for except a vague hope she might someday regain her memory and ability to read. While I might be relegated to an imaginary hell when I die, Mom is already there.