The week after Thanksgiving I was supposed to go with my mom and sons to the Nutcracker. I have been going to the Nutcracker with my mom for as far back as I can remember because she loves theater. She bought tickets for everything; big productions, local productions, community theater, high school musicals - she loved it all. The Nutcracker held a special place in her heart because it was Christmasy, and traditional and just... because.
This year my mom called on Saturday and said she couldn’t go to the Nutcracker, because she had the flu.
On Sunday, I went to see her and thought, “maybe she had a mini stroke...”
On Monday she went to the doctor and he thought, “yes, mini stroke.”
On Tuesday I spent the day with her eating soup, flipping through catalogs, watching PBS Kids.
On Wednesday she was rushed to the ER.
She never went home again.
Five days. Five days and everything changed.
This is the story I have been telling over, and over, and over again for the past 3 months. It is the story I repeat in my head. Five days and everything changed. Five day and she never went home again.
How quickly we went from the Nutcracker as usual, to terminal brain cancer.
How does that happen?
I think about all the things I didn’t get to say, all the things we didn’t get to do. I think about all the things I should have done.
There are the tropes we say when someone is losing a loved one. We say, “love your family and hug them as if it is was the last day.” We say, “live each day as if it is your last.”
It is a nice idea, but it is not practical. How do we live in a heightened sense of “pending end” every day? What would that even look like?
If I lived every day as if it was my last, I would not do laundry, eat healthy, or do the things. I like being neat and healthy, but let’s be honest - I would not do laundry on my last day of life.
I do the things because I have to live each day as if I was going to see tomorrow. I need to live with the expectation that there will be a tomorrow because I cannot sustain a sense of immediacy. It’s too much. It’s too intense.
And hugging someone as if it is their last day is gut wrenching. It is sad. It hurts. It is one of the most painful, awful things we ever get the opportunity to do.
And it is an opportunity, it is a gift. It is. Even though it sucks.
We say, “love them now for you might not get to love them tomorrow.” And that is true. Love each other now, but not as if you will never see each other again, but because you have the opportunity to do it now. Love and trust that there will be another Nutcracker. And, if another Nutcracker doesn’t come, if you are given the opportunity to love someone through their passing, do that too.
Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!
- By Kālidāsa