Thursday, August 11, 2011

Off-Topic: Dignity in the Face of Adversity

Last Sunday, I learned that my Aunt Ruth had been diagnosed with colon cancer.  It was obviously upsetting to me but not devastating as I know that with current treatments and procedures, colon cancer is not as deadly as some other types of cancer or cancer in other areas of the body.  Devastation was not to be denied, however.  Later that day I was informed that it was recently learned that the cancer had spread to her liver and her stomach.  I wanted to scream.  I wanted to hit something.  Instead, I cried.  Sobbed uncontrollably in the arms of my loving husband is actually more accurate.
I took this picture of our gentle giant the day before he left us.

This was not the first time in the last few weeks I had cried.  Three weeks ago our wonderful dog, Cochise, was found a have a large, inoperable tumor on his bladder.  Instead of aggressive, useless treatments, we chose to bring him home to be with us - his family.  He passed away two weeks ago.  The news of Ruthie's diagnosis arrived while we are still grieving his loss.

Sunday evening, I found myself to be in the midst of significant self-pity.  It lasted until I realized that I wasn't truly the one suffering.  Until I thought about Ruth and who she is.  She would not be feeling sorry for herself.  Truly, I don't believe she is capable of self-pity.  The more I thought about her, the stronger I felt.  Strong enough that today I bypassed the second-hand reports of relatives and called Ruthie herself.  Her very first question:  a truly sincere "How are you?"

Ruth as a young woman

Ruth knows she is facing terminal illness.  She's not afraid.  She doesn't feel sorry for herself.  Her only regret, although she probably wouldn't call it that, is that she never made it to Hawaii.  The cruel irony is that her grandson is about about to be stationed in Hawaii.  She has been waiting for him to be relocated. 

My dad and I are planning to go visit Ruthie in the very near future.  Before we go, I am going to go to my storage unit and retrieve all of the photos (I know photos should not be in a storage unit) I took while I was in Maui and put together a slide show for her.  I know it's not the same, but at least she can see what I saw. 

Aunt Ruth isn't going to have a funeral.  She doesn't want one.  Her request is to be cremated and her ashes strewn.  I don't know how and I don't know when, but I will make sure that some of her ashes go to Hawaii.  It's the very least I can do for someone who's done so much for me.  If I can learn to be a little more like her, she will have done more for me than she could ever imagine.

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