Anniversaries and holidays conjure up all sorts of memories and emotions. The last few days have been very introspective and raw.
When thoughts and feelings are twisting inside, a walk is a good way to sort them out. It was on one of these walks last week that I was especially tormented by the memories and tears of last year. My plodding along the sidewalk was suddenly stopped short by a glint of color. Coming into focus, flitting right in front of my eyes, I swear, was a saffronbutterfly. Alright, it was actually pungent-orange in color but that's close enough for me. The tops of its wings appeared to have rhinestones on it. Shiny, glinting spots that caught flashes of the sun. Mesmerized, I slowly raised my hand palm up. On cue, the butterfly gently landed on my fingertips! I swallowed my gasp, for fear of scaring the beautiful creature away. Then I imagined what this scene must have looked like to passers-by. Some urbane Snow White in T-shirt and jeans, gazing at a butterfly on her fingertips. It gently raised and lowered it's shimmering wings. Looking at it, I was hoping for some profound message, some great epiphany, the great existential answer to all the ancient questions about meaning and existence. But it just rested there for a bit before flitting away. I stood and watched it waft towards some blossoming bushes. Perhaps it was just a little wink from the universe.
This weekend I was visiting a friend's place and had the pleasure of picking plums, apricots and apples from the fruit trees. Summer was bursting everywhere. Heaven is the simple joy of precariously cradling an armful of fresh-picked fruit, while reaching up to pluck yet another ripe plum.
Last year, on the eve of the transplant July 4, in the midst of great uncertainty and fear, a glass partition stood between me and my friend M. I lamented that I was in the hospital, on my favorite day of the year. And I cried out against the statistics that said I would never see another summer. From my bed and through the glass pane, M and I promised each other that we would be together "next year" and I would be healthy and cancer-free and we'd watch the Fireworks outside, under the stars, and drink wine and hug and toast to life. Last night, we did just that. Along with a few other friends, we went to the Hollywood Bowl for the Fireworks show. I felt something in me burst as the sky lit up with sparks and fiery whistles. Everything about that moment was what I so earnestly prayed and hoped for, all alone in that dark hospital bed a year ago. Of course the tears would not stop running down my face. It felt like I finally made it home.
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An edited version of what I wrote last July 4:
the night before the transplant i am sending love out in all directions from my bed. From my window tonight, I could see the entire horizon ablaze with fireworks. It was the most spectacular July 4th I've ever seen….. Yes, I'm a little scared and a little anxious, but I'm just filling myself with love and gratitude and faith to make it through the next 24 hours. So, sending sparks and fireworks to everyone from my heart to yours. I will be praying all night tonight. Praying that a year from now we will be watching fireworks together. And that 50 years from now we'll still be craning our necks to the sky to shout out "oooh and"aaah".
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July 4th is my thanksgiving. It's about uniting with friends and community and taking the time to enjoy life together. I've seen too many who succumbed to cancer this past year. Beautiful husbands, brilliant girls, promising sons. I live my life fully in honor of them. I am so blessed to have reached this point. I have scans and tests at the end of the month to see if the transplant will be a long term success.
This year, I hope the Fireworks remind all of us of all our blessings.
P.S. July 5, the actual transplant day, I made another fun "next year" wish that will come true. That'll be in my next post!