Friday, January 2, 2009

So hard to let us go

Marcie was strong. She cried, and then she sometimes held it all in, too. But she always broke down when she talked about the people she would leave behind.

"Oh, my mom," she said. "My mom is going to be devastated. I don't know what she's going to do."

I held her hand and she squeezed it as the tears oozed from her eyes and she gulped. I ached to my core.

I hated to see her cry. In all my time with Marcie, I had never gotten used to the idea of seeing her unhappy or in pain, or sad in any way. I always thought that she should feel nothing but happiness, unrealistic as that was.

Of course, if she cried in any case because of me, and that was not unheard of, it usually ended in immediate efforts to reconcile and a sense of great guilt. It didn't matter if I was right.

It was never right for me to see her upset.

But when Marcie cried the most with me was when she reviewed her life, very discreetly, in the form of her friends and family, and her thoughts of how her departure would impact them.

When her thoughts turned to all of those lives her own was entangled with, she spoke clearly and thoughtfully, viewing each person through their own unique lens, colored and shaped by the moments they shared together.

She would call me and sit with me on the couch, or lay in the bed with me, and nearer the end, call me to her side.

I was left in these beautiful and heartrending moments in a state most who know me would say was unfathomable. Speechless and overwhelmed is not my native mien.

She feared for everyone she knew. She hoped for them, too. She lamented the loss of their future experiences together and her support of them. She smiled and then cried at the goals people had set, which she was sure she would not see achieved.

She would often think of people before they visited her, and talk to me about them. She practiced her strolls down memory lane to help her organize her thoughts before she met them.

"I want to make sure that she... I hope he doesn't midn if I bring up... I wonder if she would mind if..." she was always planning and listing and preparing.

I am always grateful that we were so enmeshed in each other that we could finish each others' thoughts and read each others' minds. Marcie was not as at ease with it, even if it was second nature.

Though I might annoy Marcie when I finished hers in better times, she let that go in her last few months and would smile and grip my hand. It was not me wearing her down, she just needed the help.

Her thoughts started out where she wanted to be, but the disease would take them afar or stall her. She would look at me and ask without words. It was relief when i got it right.

"Yes, exactly," she said. "ExACTly. Thank you, sweetie."

"No, thank you," I would say.

She usually smiled at that. I did not tell her that every thought I helped her finish was another precious thing to know her by and another taste of her to savor for me as she drifted away.

She did this for weeks at a time, and I was devastated. I did not know what to say to all of her touching memories and thoughts on our friends. I felt the loss all of her friends would experience as she relayed it in her wise and sweet way.

She was getting depressed one day when speaking of a friend who was distant, one we had not been able to contact. I was at a loss, feeling despair as she wondered what had happened in her life.

I looked down and she said, "I promised to get in touch, I should have a long time ago," she said.

I sighed and finally something worthwhile came out of me. But to say them to her, to give her an inkling that I knew the road was to end for her, after resisting the thought for so long, broke me completely.

"I think that she, like everyone else you are thinking about, will miss you very badly, baby," I said. "But I think that they are all going to be very grateful to have someone like you to make their lives as rich as you do, just like I do."

She started crying but my thought was not complete, and I was falling apart, too.

"I think," I said, squeezing my eyes shut against the flood, "That you have done more for all the people in your life in the time they have had with you than anyone else ever will, and with such joy and spirit and fire..."

She covered her mouth wand closed her eyes as I rubbed her other hand in mine. I kissed her on the cheek.

"I just think you don't have to worry about people, because even if you aren't here to do things for them, they will be here to do things for other people like you have," I said. "It's something you do by just being yourself, you inspire people."

I gulped and smiled at her and I said, "I am sure you'll find a way to keep doing what you do best."

I hugged her and she wept with me. There were more conversations like this. Her loved ones came and went. Her memories and worries of them were and are are theirs to share, not mine and not here.

But for me, I am hoping that one little legacy, Marcie's inspiring ways, her cheerleading and wisdom-sharing and life well-lived, will remain as strong their lives as it is in mine, and in these pages.