On Saturday, I am going to Vermont for the first time.
I'm going to Vermont for the first time in order to say goodbye for the last time.
To say goodbye for the last time to someone I love dearly, to someone I have known and loved my entire life: Maude's mom, whose name is Lou.
In October Lou began losing words, and she was diagnosed with a glioblastoma - an aggressive, malignant brain tumor. Very quickly, they operated. They determined chemo would do nothing. She decided against radiation, as it
would take away as much time as it would give.
The prognosis was six months.
I know that this is more notice than many people have, and I know that she has lived a long and full life. I know that children, innocent little children who have barely begun to live, sometimes die.
I know this.
I also know now that I am one of those people who would pull the switch
and let three innocent people be run over by a train if it meant saving
one person in particular.
Or however that ethics question goes.
Because I do not know how you prepare to lose someone you love so very much. Someone who is smart and funny and sparkly and kind and generous and has spent decades upon decades running around doing good in the world.
Do you? If so, please share.
my experience, even when you know that Death is on the horizon, gliding
steadily and inexorably forward, it is impossible to steel yourself for
You all know my friend Maude - born a month before me, also in India. Her mom is Lou - Auntie Lou to me, in the Indian tradition.
And really, growing up their family was always family to me. I had two dolls named Chandigarh, after the city they lived in. My mom was at their house for the birth of Maude's younger brother, Adam.
Maude says her mom and my dad engineered our friendship, and I believe she is right, and I will forever be grateful to them for doing so.
My dad inserted Maude into my childhood bedtime stories, even when we lived continents apart. And when I was 15 he told me Maude really wanted to join us on our family beach vacation, which I thought was weird, since we hadn't seen each other since we were kids, but OK. Turns out Lou told Maude I'd been begging for her to come to the beach, and she thought it equally odd, but OK. She was game.
We figured this out years later, when we were best, best friends.
My parents and Lou met in Afghanistan in the Peace Corps in 1964. My mom and Lou have been dearest friends for 50 years.
didn't quite trust her at first, because she was so beautiful, and so
all-the-time nice. She didn't swear, she didn't say anything bad about anyone, she wasn't
judgey. If someone were ill, she'd make
chicken soup and get on her bike and pedal across the pass that divided
Kabul to take it to their house.
Was anyone actually that nice?
Yes, in fact. A nurse-midwife, she cares about people - about humanity - in a way that most people, myself included, do not.
(And in fact, the only people I think I've ever heard her say anything negative about are Duke basketball players and the Taliban and politicians like Dick Cheney. And even then, she uses words like "thugs," rather than my unsavory choice, "douchebag asshole fucks.")
went up a week ago, and Lou told her she'd had more words and slept less the week
before. She was doing even better the week prior to that. In other words, there's a
marked difference week to week. She sleeps more and more.
you love most in the world drifts farther and farther away as they sit
right next to you. And there's nothing you can do.
Your inclination is
to pull them to you, to wrap them in a protective embrace, and shield them
from harm. While you kick, and scream, and fight for them. Keep them here with us.
But in the case of a swift and fatal brain tumor, who do you fight? Who do you scream at? Where to aim your clawing and your kicks?
It's not fair (ah, fair, my friend fairness!). There are so many truly evil people in the world. Or even just bad. Or ordinary. Non-sparkly. Why are they fine?
Betty got back from Vermont, she drifted in the front door, wan and
limp. You could see she was shattered, barely holding it together. A strong breeze could've sent her into pieces.
How do you say goodbye, knowing it is for the last time, to your dear friend of 50 years? How do you say
goodbye forever to someone who is part of your heart?
I know Lou doesn't want to go, she isn't ready. She has so much to do, so much love in her life, such a great family. Her youngest grandchild, Iris, only 15 months old, deserves to know her lovely Grandma Lou.
And yet, even now, even in this, Lou is sweet, and she is graceful. Ever kind.
Dear Lou, she is so tired. She eats a lot of ice cream, and she sleeps more and more.
We are devastated. We are furious. Where's the goddamn world train switch? We who will be left, we rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Time. We all want more time with the ones we love the most. It's all we want.
Is that so much to ask?