When I get off the phone with my stepmother I wail like an animal. Stage 4 ovarian cancer that has moved into her lungs. Equal parts grief and fear make guttural noises and crawl out of my throat. She is too beautiful, too kind to die. Will she die? We don't know. I call her Saint Mary. She takes care of everyone. She takes care of my dad who has Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinsons. His powerful mountain of a mind and body in slow, painful erosion. She is so patient, so loving with him. He can no longer fill out paperwork. I am his only child.
That night, before we tell my son, we watch him perform in his 5th Grade Musical. He has two roles, a camp counselor and a camper and moves joyously and deftly around the stage. He is so ready to move on but I don't know how ready I am to let him. Two days later we lose power and they cancel the last day of school and the world outside looks like someone stuffed it into a blender and then threw the remaining bits and parts around like confetti. He writes on his Father's Day card: Enjoy your time in the ruins of society.
I sit on a towel on the beach and call my oldest friend. My husband's family is in the condo cooking, reading. "I don't think I'm made for this," I say. In October her mother did the unthinkable and died. I watched mountains of grace and grief sweep through their family like I was watching a tsunami from just above, on a precarious, shaky ledge. "Yes, you were too made for this," she says. "You have always done things we never thought you could." She cites starting my own business and jogging and saving my marriage as examples. Her speech is impassioned and beautiful and makes me feel better, but underneath, I think we must both know she's lying. No one is made for this.
I ask Mary if she's scared of chemo and she says, "Oh no, not at all." How can this be when I'm scared of trying on bathing suits at the mall? The doctors are very hopeful, she has a comprehensive treatment plan, things are looking up. I'm in awe of her calm, feel hope swoosh through my body, am at last able to breathe out. I want to think I'll rise to every occasion, that God never gives us more than we can handle, that I'm made for all the moments I've been given. I want to think that I will be foraging for fire and food and friends and not wailing in a ditch or wringing my hands in the ruins of society.