"She has cancer, again."
It was a Saturday afternoon, midsummer. I was taking my work break when something told me to call my mother. So I did.
"It's in her lungs now."
Silence fell upon the line. What was probably only 30 seconds felt more like an hour. I couldn't even hear her breath. Eventually, she sighed. And that's it. At least that's all that I could recall from that interaction. I don't know what she said after that because my mind went astray. At that moment, time did not halt for me. Instead, I became fixated on every minor detail that physically surrounded me. I was aware of the straggling ants marching across the breakroom table. My feet throbbed with pain from standing for three hours straight. The ghostly white paint along the walls was worn and chipped. I realized that I was trying to forget what my mother just said. Cancer. Again.
Cancer? Lung cancer? Again? What does this mean for her? What about my mother? What about us?
She was still recovering from the chemotherapy and radiation from the last form of cancer she had. She can't go through this again. We planned on visiting for Christmas, hoping she'd hold on for six more months. I was going to rush this fall, and I was so excited. I'm moving into an apartment soon and I have bills to pay. We can't afford a plane ticket right now. She can't have cancer. Not again. Not now. We had plans, we had everything figured out.
Like most people, I've understood the concept of death since I was about five years old. I've been to numerous funerals in my rather short lifetime, and would sometimes gloat that I have never cried at a funeral before. But this time is different. This time it feels personal - like a personal attack on my life and the people I hold dearest to my heart. She's not just a name that I've heard through conversation or a face I've only seen a handful of times. This is Grandma. My grandma. A social woman who loved to laugh and dance. She was fierce and feisty. She was always the funniest person in the room. We were pen pals when having a pen pal was still cool. She raised the brilliant and strong woman that raised me. Now, whenever I see her smiling face along the walls of my home, I am instantly reminded that her final days are upon us. It strains my heart, but I can't seem to bring myself to think about anything else.
We live, we love, and we die. I find myself saying that six-word phrase almost every day. I am so grateful to have so many wonderful memories with her that I can cherish and one day share them with my children. Family and others who loved her will be able to reminisce and retell her stories for years to come.
I love you, grandma.