I’ve been putting off writing this all day. I need to write this. Maybe for you, absolutely for me, I need to get this out.
Over a month ago, I posted this blog entry dealing with my mom’s recent health problems, including the possibility that she could have liver cancer. I talked to her Monday night, a few hours after her most recent visit with her doctor, and found out the latest. Yes, it’s cancer, and it’s inoperable — trying to remove it at this point would simply kill her faster.
So let’s just say that things here at Chez Anselmo are a little … muted. My on-again, off-again low-grade depression is definitely on again, that numb car-accident feeling I talked about before. The Supermodel has been affected as well, not helped by some additional health problems of her own (hopefully minor — but with the “C” word hanging in the air, it kind of preys on your mind). We haven’t told the kids, and we won’t until either they ask or she dies, because we feel it’s not fair to put that kind of burden on minds not yet ready to handle it — but that also means that when the Supermodel and I want to talk about it, we have to be somewhere they’re not and circumspect besides. It hasn’t been a lot of fun.
And how is Mom handling this? Well, her reaction can best be summed up as, “I’m going to Disney World!”
And I’m not speaking metaphorically. She’s planning to take the money she has set aside for the proverbial rainy day and take a trip to Orlando, Florida! And she’s stopped worrying about her diet, too — her first meal after talking with the oncologist was a big plate of hash browns. (Mom is diabetic, and potatoes have been a no-no for a while.) She’s taking care of what arrangements she has to, and then she plans to have a lot of fun on earth while she has the opportunity. Her entire mindset at this point is, “why should I worry about all those other things? What are they gonna do, kill me?”
It’s a healthy perspective (there’s that word again) to have. She knows she’s going to Heaven once she dies, so there’s no need to concern herself with that end of things. She doesn’t have to bother with the long term anymore, because she’s already been told her term just won’t be that long. And there’s no point in putting off the things you want to do when there’s no longer anywhere to put them off to, when “later” means “never.” To quote Dr. Samuel Johnson, “when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” My mom isn’t facing a noose, but she’s concentrating quite well — on Disney World and Epcot Center. She’s handling this wonderfully, I think.
Me, not so much. Even though I’m just as sure that she and I will see each other again in the presence of God (and yes, I am 100% sure about this — if you’re not, please, keep it to yourself), it still hurts. Because I know that someone I love is going to be absent from me for the rest of my life on this ball o’ dirt, I’m going to miss her. If anything, I’m starting to miss her in advance.
Mark Twain once said that when someone you love dies, it’s like your house burning down; only years later do you realize the extent of your loss. And already, I’m thinking about some of the coming losses. Not having that person that cares about what I’m doing even when what I’m doing is unutterably boring. That I can swap fave science-fiction reads with. That the Supermodel can go to for free medical advice. That always seems to know the right thing to get out kids for birthdays and Christmas (she just has the knack). That isn’t truly happy unless she’s cooking us (or taking us out for) a meal. That cringes at the very thought of someone doing something for her, because she’d rather be doing something for them. Not to mention that to a great extent, with my father and brother off in their own chosen unrealities, she’s really all the family I have left.
And yet, and yet … there is still the long term. I don’t know what Heaven will be like aside from what the Bible says on the subject, and much of that is likely allegorical. I’m instinctively distrustful of people who claim to have seen it (and write books about it), because their descriptions sound more like bad acid trips than anything I’d want to attend. (And because the Apostle Paul, who apparently did get a glimpse, only said about it that he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” — 2 Corinthians 12:4.) But one aspect of Heaven seems to be that we will be reunited with all that have gone there before. That’s pretty consistent across all theological lines. Which means that once my mom dies, I will see her again. It may not be for a long time — at least, I hope it won’t — but it will happen.
Corrie ten Boom, in her biography The Hiding Place, relates what happened after her sister Betsie died in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck. Betsie had worn a bright blue sweater throughout her time in the camps (how they smuggled it in there is a miracle in itself), and Corrie wanted to keep it as a memento of her sister’s. But a camp nurse, a friend, stopped her, saying that all of Betsie’s clothes were full of lice and had to be burned. As Corrie related it years later, “And so I left behind the last physical tie. It was just as well. It was better. Now what tied me to Betsie was the hope of Heaven.”
So that’s what I’m having to do — let the physical ties go. And it hurts. It hurts like blazes. But I must also remember that the hope of eternity is a tie that cannot be broken. Not by grief, not by distance or time, not even by malignancy.
In the meantime, Mom’ll be having fun. And I plan to enjoy having her around, for as long as I can.