I have always called Jacquelynn My sunrise. Every morning, seeing the warmth in her eyes, I feel as if the first rays of the sun are caressing my face.
We lost a dear friend this weekend. The sun set on the suffering of the husband of Jacquelynn’s dearest friend, Joyce. She lost her husband after a long battle with throat cancer. Bob was a retired journalist and among the sharpest, wittiest men I have ever encountered. We are poorer for his loss, but his true home is so much richer for his return.
I’d like to ask for a moment of silence in his memory. Thank you.
I won’t pretend that I knew Bob well; we spoke a few dozen times and I was invited into their house once, just before Christmas in 2015. I know Joyce much better, and I know she adores my Jacquelynn. They have been fast friends for years, walking and shopping together, gardening, and attending zoning hearings for our neighborhood, among countless other things.
Joyce’s battle was arduous and terrible. Much as she clung to hope and Bob to life, their fight was futile and they both knew that barring a miracle, it would end much as it did, quietly (and gratefully in peace) in hospice care.
Jacquelynn’s doctor would have us believe much the same is in store for her. For us.
I’m young… Mid teens, maybe. I’m in a hotel with my parents. It’s a huge, plush place with libraries, large, carpeted common areas, and a labyrinthine floorplan reminiscent of an enormous high school on your first day as a freshman. I’ve been wandering for a while, exploring and sightseeing. Suddenly, I can’t find my room. I’m completely lost. I had been on my cell phone just moments ago, but now I can’t remember how to use it at all. I can’t call Mom and Dad. Every corner I turn is new and terrifying, completely unfamiliar. The deeply cushioned armchairs seem threatening and they frighten me. I’m spinning, going around in circles, hopelessly lost and now I can’t even remember who I was looking for. I’m rudderless and hopelessly lost. I’m not even certain who I am…
I always wake up sweating and in tears from that one. Fortunately, I haven’t screamed yet, but that may be because by the end of the dream, I’ve lost myself so completely that I don’t even know to cry for help.
The source of the dream is obvious, of course. I run the full course the illness in moments until I don’t even know myself. The empathy is profound, but deeply chilling. I’ve honestly never had a dream in my 51 years that terrified me more.
But I won’t lose her that way. We will not lose her that way.
The science is real. Patients are recovering and returning to their lives. They’re waking up. They’re bathing themselves and brushing their own teeth. They’re driving and going back to work and raising their children or playing with their grandbabies.
Yesterday, I watched my 160+ I.Q. wife break into tears because she couldn’t find the words or an effective way to ask a question about the toaster. A fucking toaster, and it brought her to tears. It was several minutes before she’d even let me hold her, she was so hurt. Hurt that she couldn’t find the simplest of words or make the easiest of concepts clear, and hurt that I couldn’t follow her line of reasoning. Every time I tried to help, I was off-base, and the distraction set her back further, causing her to forget and to struggle to recall her original thought. It was three or four minutes of hell for her.
And it tore me apart to watch it, unable to help and with every attempt adding to the pain.
The one thing I’ve sworn is to help, not to hurt. Yet even trying to help sometimes hurts her.
But love will see us through it all. Love will see us prevail.
Love will see her healed and whole once again.
Her sun will rise again, brilliant as ever, and brighter still.