My cousin is dying of cancer.
This is not the first death or long-term sickness in the family that has taken place since I’ve lived overseas — my grandmother and grandfather both passed away during the time we’ve lived in Brazil — but this has been the most painful. And the distance has served to prick at the pain through myriad ways.
My cousin is young and vibrant and full of a wild-eyed wonder at life. (She would smile at noticing that I didn’t write *wide* eyed. She is not naive, nor innocent, and yet she is not jaded or proud or guarded.) She is a giver of grace because she has been a receiver of grace. She is above all full of hope. She laughed at the future and welcomed each day with open arms. She was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and she has fought the good fight. Then, just when we all thought she was into a fingers-crossed-forever remission, the doctors found cancer in other places. She went through all the rounds again and this time nothing helped, not even for the short term. I saw her again after this second diagnosis in November when I was in the US for a quick weekend for the wedding of a friend. We said goodbye then, even though neither of us wanted to, even though we both knew that this was *the* goodbye.
And so, my cousin is dying of cancer and there is absolutely nothing I can do for her . . . or for my mom or aunt who have been her primary caregivers in these last months. I’ve often thought, as I’ve been reading stories to my students in the library, that if I could I would sit by Lisa’s bed and read her stories and poetry and bible verses. We would steer our focus away from the pain, away from her coming last breath and we would escape together, wild-eyed, into the wonder of life and the glory of creation for but a few moments. And it would be something. It would be the small something I could do for her.
And so instead, I read stories for my wide-eyed innocent students, for these little ones who are still learning the grace and truth of life, who for now are only rehearsing through story the sting and sorrow of pain. It is never just rehearsal for very long.
May we all stop and pay attention to the wonder around us. Mary Oliver said it best, I think:
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?