December 2005 will always be known as the Month of Grace. That month for Happyanne, for me, was a time of going to the other side of trauma --- a time when her cancer had returned after almost 6 years, chemotherapy that brought her to the brink of death too many times, 11 hours of surgery, 2 months of hospitalization and rehabilitation. But in December 10 years ago, she and her partner had moved out of our house where she had come to recover, into their own place again. She was walking with just one crutch for support, she was busy planning what she wanted to do next in her life---where they would live, what graduate school she would apply to so she could really do the things that seemed to have been on hold for her for so long.
That December I started to unwind some of the straps that had been holding me together. I started to breathe a bit more calmly and I started to consider the possibility that perhaps my oldest daughter would not need me each day and I could focus more on the younger ones who did.
There had always been love and laughter surrounding Happyanne, her 2 sisters and 3 brothers taking turns spending time with her so she was never alone. There was the time that Grace was helping her and Happyanne was being especially bitchy and Grace at 18, stopped, looked at her with what I know was complete frustration and sheer love and said, "Quit being such a bitch" and Happyanne, stunned for the moment, started laughing so hard and thanked Grace for being real, that laughter brought the entire house into a joyous place for the moment. But then, in that Month of Grace, the love and laughter was because we all were beginning to feel like we could start to move on. We all seemed to relax more. We all seemed to have been holding a collective breath and when we gathered on Christmas, I was sure I could hear the sigh that was being released.
As the new year began, Happyanne started to feel pain, pain enough to make her vomit. Each day the pain seemed to appear with more frequency and for longer and longer periods of times. Suddenly the phone calls to me became regular--her questions as to what to do, what could she take, how could she manage, the "what-ifs" not being spoken but that were so loud coming into my heart tightening the straps.
Thérèse Hak-Kuhn is a mother of 6 incredible human beings, an activist in birth and social justice issues. She has been honored to help so many enter into this world and to walk with those while they have left this realm, the profound similarities informing her own existence. She has written many books, all in her head. She loves her life and all that it has offered her which is a hell of a lot.