Friday, 7 November 2008

Conversations Among The Dying

The saying ‘time heals all wounds’ is not true. My good friend Darlene died one year ago today. You never forget and you never completely heal. Time heals nothing. Time passes and that is it.

With the anniversary of Darlene’s death come the memories of my other dear friends who died: Jill, Helen, and Angie. It isn’t easy to lose people that you grow to love, just as it isn’t easy to know that they died of what you will die of and that in the end it comes very quickly and sometimes without having the loving relationships you would like because egos (either yours or theirs) get in the way.

Darlene’s best friend Sally and I were discussing Darlene and how much we miss her and how much we love Marcie and Travis and how we can’t even describe how sad we are for them. Sally said about cancer and Darlene dying that ‘It is all torture, just different forms of it.’

Today, one year later, I remember opening my Facebook and reading the only message Darlene had ever sent me on Facebook and it was posted on November 2, 2007:

*Hi Renee. I love you and think of you all the time. I’m starting chemo on Monday, Docitaxel and Gymsidabean? They’re giving me Kytril so I guess I’ll be sick, not looking forward to that. Got a PICC line today and they drained my stomach and got 6.6 liters off my stomach. They put a steroid after the drain hoping that will keep it down longer than two days. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you earlier. Don’t know if I’ll see you Tuesday, hope so. Lots of luv Dar XO

I replied with the following:

*6.6 liters are you kidding me. Oh my God.

*Can I come and see you, just let me know. I can come and spend some of the day. I love you. I just reminded Marcie about our lunch next week. You might be having chemo then though. Darlene, Taxotere really did wonders for me. I want the same for you. Hurry and let this be a terrible memory.

*Sally told me yesterday in group that you fell and are black and blue. Darlene, what next?

The phone rings, it is Irene and she proceeds to tell me that she has bad news ‘Darlene just died.’ I said ‘Darlene who?’ She says ‘well Darlene.’ I say ‘My Darlene?’ She says ‘yes.’

I can’t believe it; I just talked to her yesterday. I believe it, and at the same time, I don’t. I feel like somebody just ripped my heart out of my forehead.

Marcie calls me and tells me her Mom is dead and could I come over. There are no words to say to a daughter who just lost the most important person in her life. I go over and see Marcie and Travis and I have no words.

Today, I think of all the things that Darlene, Jill, Helen, and Angie have done to stay alive so that they could spend more time with their children. I think of all the things that I do and Sally, Donna, Carol, Bernice, etc. do to get another day. And with all of the things that we do and go through there is still no reassurance that we can keep the devil at bay.

It is inevitable for us, for all of us really, that no matter how we plan, dose, medicate, radiate, recuperate, and then get more chemo that we can keep death at bay and our bodies bouncing back.

We have been marked and so sometimes all we can take from a day is the support and love that we give to each other. We of the mark, we who will miss out on our children’s lives before we should have too, we who understand the same language, we who miss the ones who have gone before.

I am going to give you a peek at some of Darlene’s emails to me, just so that you can get an essence of what a wonderful, caring, selfless person she was.

These emails are from February/06 to October/07.

*Just wanted to see how you’re doing and to let you know that I’m thinking about you lots (this was repeated on every email, I am not going to repeat it here). Did you go for the bone scan today, if so hope that all went well.

*I’ve got 4 more days of work practicum and than that’s it, I’m officially done school. I applied for a Clerk Typist II at CancerCare, it is a permanent part time position (she did get the job but was unable to take it as her cancer came back).

*Well time for bed. Renee please know that if there is something I can do or you want to get out for coffee just give me a ring. Write when you feel up to it okay. Take care; you’re always on my mind and in my prayers. Lots of luv Dar.

*I know you’re probably already gone for your treatments but I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be thinking of you my dear friend. Hope that all goes well for you and that you’re not sick after the treatment.

*I wish there was something that I could do for you. I remember I cried in the shower every night when I was first diagnosed. And I think I’m always thinking of the time that will be lost. It’s very hard times that we’re going through.

*Do you think that you’d feel like going out for breakfast sometime on the weekend? If you do I could be ready in an hours’ notice. Call if you feel up to it. Take care Renee and I’ll be thinking of you on Friday as I always do. If you ever need me to take you on a Friday please just call. I’ve got my parking pass so it won’t cost us a dime heehee. Thinking of you always my dear friend.

*I hope that you all had a nice Christmas, you’ve been on my mind lots. Renee, you are not going to believe this, my sweet children bought me a laptop computer for Christmas. I cried and cried. Dave has set it up for me and I love it so now when I’m too sore to sit at the desk I can have it on my lap. I’m going to call you today but if you don’t feel up to talking I totally understand.

*I saw Dr. Daenick yesterday and he is recommending surgery to take out the rib and nerves if they are damaged. He is referring me to Dr. Tan, I am so happy about this even though it means surgery.

*Everyone is excited for you GRANDMA!! Phone if you feel up to it, I’ll be home all day doing laundry.

*Hope that you are doing okay and are keeping warm; it is unreal out there isn’t it.

*I went to the surgeon last week and he told me that they could do the surgery but they couldn’t promise that would end the problem and that I could end up in more pain (it did help, but the pain was still incredible). I was upset with that and felt like I was back at the beginning. They suggest that I get a nerve block first (she did and it didn’t really help). What have you been up to, keeping warm I hope. How is Angelique feeling? Are you going to group on Tuesday, do you want to go with me? Talk soon, always thinking of you Renee.

*I have been thinking of you all week, how did the wedding go? Fantastic I hope. I know Nadalene would have looked beautiful. Can you please send some pictures when you can? I’m so sorry that I didn’t make it but I’m still not getting around too easily. I thought I’d be having cabin fever by now but I don’t really have any desire to go out at all.

*I hope that you had a nice Thanksgiving and are feeling okay. We had our dinner yesterday at Karen’s but my stomach is so big I couldn’t eat as much as I wanted to. Just wanted to let you know that I won’t be going to group tomorrow and Sally isn’t sure if she’s going or not. I went to emergency on Saturday I couldn’t take it anymore. They are supposed to drain my stomach tomorrow if the liver is okay. One of the counts was out on Saturday so they gave me some vitamin K and have stopped my needles to help so I sure hope it does. I think I’ll lose it if they can’t do it. I’ll miss you all tomorrow but I’ll be thinking of you all.

The following last email is from me to Darlene’s message above:

*Poor poor you. And I am complaining. I’m so sorry Darlene. I know my stomach hurts and is uncomfortable, but I know it isn’t like yours. I love you and am so sorry that you are going through this.

Who Darlene cared about more than anyone in this world were Marcie and Travis. All she wanted was for them to have people to support them and love them just as if she was here to do it herself. Unfortunately no one can love our children like their mothers do. We can all try but it isn’t good enough. Darlene had a quiet manner and was one of the bravest and selfless people I know. This quote describes Darlene to me at so many levels.

~~ The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next. Mignon McLaughlin ~~

When I get discouraged I go on mostly for my children, but sometimes because of friends like Darlene, Jill, Helen, and Angie. I go on because they would have given anything to be able to do so and that choice was taken from them. I choose to go on and honour them by living and loving, and at my best times being joyful and appreciating every single second that I have on this planet, because Darlene, Jill, Helen and Angie no longer can.

I am one of the marked, the unlucky, the one who has lost a very dear friend. And even that wouldn’t be so bad if Marcie and Travis did not have to lose a very dear mother. Darlene not being here is a big deal and it should be a big deal. Love and cherish the people in your life today because they may not be here tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to Darlene.
She was truly and extraordinary person.

jacquie said...

your post was beautiful and very sad. i can not imagine that darlene has died 1 year ago....
i think of what a sweet sweet person she really was and how much she loved her marcie and travis.
they are a testiment to how she mothered them and who they have become. travis looks just like darlene and when we were at darlene's funeral i remember how shocked we both were to see the picture of darlene that looked exactly like marcie when darlene was a teen.
i don't think you can ever get over the loss of your mom... nor should you be expected to.
i agree renee..
that time does not heal everything when it is someone you love dearly.
i am thinking of you marcie and travis. i am also thinking of you renee and all of your other wonderful friends who you have lost.
here's to darlene in remembering her today and not forgetting her on this day.i will eat a chocolate in rememberance of you today as i know you loved chocolate darlene.

together strong

Renee said...

Jacquie -- that was so beautiful, thank you very much. Marcie and Travis really are a testament to their Mom.

I especially liked the piece of chocolate, I see that I too will need to eat a piece.

Love you xoxoxoxo

taylor said...

As usual with your posts i am touched; to you Aunty Renee, as well as Marcie and Travis I hope the memories of your mom (dear friend) bring warmth to your heart on this snowy winter day.

marss said...

Thank you Renee. Everytime someone talks to Travis and I about mom, or remembers something about her, it makes me feel a little closer to her. She fouht so long and so hard, she deserves to be renenbered. She loved you so much and would be so touched that you would write such beautiful things about her.

Yesterday someone told me that if they found out they were terminal, they would stop all treatment and try to enjoy what time they had left. But to mom, and you and so many of those amazing women in group, that was never an option. You are each fighting for more time, pushing against the clock to stay with the people that love you the most. Mom went through hell just to try to get a little more time. I am so thankful to her and proud that she did everything she could just to spend more time with travis and I. That means more to us than anything.
You are right when no you say no one can replace your mom, but it is especially true with my mom. She was so kind, never judging, always comforting, and everytime I think of her, I think of the way when she would hug me she would carress the base of my neck and whisper in my ear, the way only a loving mom could.
Thank you so much dear Renee, I love you so much. And thank you to Jacquie for the beautiful message.
Let's all have a piece of chocolate today, mom would love that. That's what Trav and I do everytime we go see her.
Love you,

Renee said...

Thank you Marcie. You know how I feel about you guys. xoxoxox

Sally said...

Dear Renee, i just read your words of our sweet Dar, Marcie and Travis's precious Mother and our very dearest friend. May God Bless her today and always.
I never knew the meaning of friendship until I met Darlene. I thought I did but I didn't.
I've read her emails she wrote me many times like you and like yours they were always so caring, always signing off love you Sal, sweet dreams, lots of luv, Dar. XOXO
In March 2007 she gave me 32 beautiful cards celebrating friendship with heartwarming words featuring Thomas Kinkade paintings and words of wisdom and joy. One of our favorites was 'We are, each of us angels with only one wing; and we can only fly by embracing one another', - Luciano de Crescenzo,
As difficult as it is we still try most days to continue the flight, all of us, with only wing, though Dar is gone I can still feel her embrace. My love for her is as wide as the ocean and I miss her as deep too until we meet again.
Renee such beautiful words of tribute today for Dar.
Love Sally

Noreen said...

Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to one of our sisters. Hard to believe that it has been one year already. I miss Darlene. It is wonderful to know others in this sisterhood, however, this comes with the price tag of loosing yet another special person. I do consider you to be one of those very special people on my life's journey. Thank you.

Love Noreen

Renee said...

Thank you Sally and Noreen for your beautiful words.

I know that Marcie and Travis will really appreciate them.

Sally, your words were so true about Darlene teaching you what a real friend is.

Noreen thank you for appreciating me in your journey.

Love you both.


Julie said...

Oh Renee, although I never knew Darlene, I am so moved by your tribute to her, her struggle, and her children.

I don't know how else to say this, but your story and your friends' stories are making me believe in God again. You guys are all angels.

Renee said...

Julie, you are so sweet and I thank you for posting as that means alot to me.

I know myself so I know I am no angel, but believe me when I tell you, there are a lot out there.


Mickey said...

I read the emails and think how much you and Darlene are alike in your caring and love for each other, I can hear the love and respect Darlene has for you and the love and respect you have for her. Darlene sounds like such an incredible person so filled with compassion for others. I know you have always said what great young people Marcie and Travis are and that is because they have a great mother who treated them with respect and love. I know you are a dear friend to Darlene and that you love, enjoy and care for Marcie and Travis and you are so right no one can replace their mother but someone can step up and help them through the difficult and happy times ahead of them and I know you will.

Renee I feel so blessed to have you in my life, there is no one who is more of an inspiration to me. You are going through so much not only with your treatments, and your cancer care meetings I am sure the people at group love when you are there as you are so interesting and fun to have around, but with all the emotional thoughts that must go through your head all the time. Sally hit it on the nail when she said it is a ongoing torture no one wants any of you to have to go through. I don't want this horrible cancer to take you away from me let alone take you from your precious precious children sweet sweet Joesphine and Wahid.

Renee said...

Mickey: You are completely right when you say that 'someone can step up and help them through the difficult and happy times' because that is all of us as mother's with cancer want. Is for someone to step up.

It is just difficult to believe in when we look around and see the families that are left behind.

Love you and talk about fun to be around. You know who I'm looking at.


Liz said...

I cannot express how sorry I am about the anniversary of
losing Darlene. She was clearly an angel.
There are no words for this. Her children are such unbelievable sweethearts, my heart aches for them.

Emerald Arts said...

I'm only young, so far I have lost only my grandfather (I used to read to him when he lost his eyesight) but I was only seven so I don't remember anything much besides an overwhelming emotion that I had no idea what to do with and mild disgust (when my auntie threw herself on the open casket a week after she had been banned from the hospital for calling my poor Mother a murderer).

So yeah, that's the sum of my experience so far. I can't even begin to comprehend the braveness you and your friends show, day by freaking day. You're like cowboys, staring down the barrel with a crooked eyebrow and witty remark.

I'm in total awe. You all have my deepest love. Just so you know ;)

Renee said...

Emma: Thank you for the beautiful comment. It is so true looking down the barrel of a gun, my daughter Angelique says it must be like playing Russian Roulette everyday, asking is this the day?

I have to tell you though that I laughed about the throwing herself on the coffin and calling your Mom a murderer. I hear more to the story that you will have to let me know some day.

Love Renee xoxoxo

I am... said...

This was a great read today. I needed to know that I have hero's in my life through these people. Yes, I didn't know them, but what a fight they fought. I am sorry they are not here. I am sorry you miss them. I hate that anyone has to loose someone that they love. You have opened my eyes to some great people...
Thank you xo

flossy-p said...

I can't imagine how difficult it must be for each of you, suffering through all this awful pain, illness and sadness, and also having to watch your friends die. It seems so wrong, so unfairly ladened.

Darlene sounds like a wonderful soul who's body failed her.

I'm so glad, even though you're not their mum, that you're there for Marci and Travis, because I now you would be a great great comfort to them with all your love and strength!

Emerald Arts said...

Russian Roulette eh? Crazy reds :p

Hmmm, the rest of the story.... My grandfather was diagnosed with Type one Diabetes when he was in his early twenties. My Grandmother, a nurse, diagnosed him. She died when both children were under three, of an accidental drug overdose. She had just had a miscarriage and took three sleeping tablets instead of two. Her little body just couldn't take it and she died. My mother found her on the bed.

Grandpa remarried a year later, to a girlfriend (evil stepmother Bev) who had, we now know, fallen pregnant. My grandfather didn't want to leave her because he already had two motherless children, so my mum and her sister were stuck with the hideous cow for the greater part of childhood.

Bev didn't know how to cook, it is said that she could burn water. Grandpa was a university professor (founded the education dept at Newcastle), so cooking was really not one of his strengths. In the last few years of his life he lost his eyesight, then all his organs started to shut down. Alison, my auntie, blamed my mother for this. She's messed up. Eventually he became so sick that prolonging his life just became too cruel, he had told mum that she would know when it was time. She did. Alison screamed and wailed and was carried out by orderlies.

The morning of his funeral I remember being surrounded by beautiful old ladies in a rose garden. They cooed over my sister and I while mum and dad sat quietly waiting for the service to begin. Alison strode in late, walked right up to the coffin with a long stemmed red rose and threw herself on his body, sobbing and wailing like a banshee. Two of grandpa's brothers (he had eight, and five or six sisters) took Alison outside and calmed her down.

At the time, I had no idea what had happened at the hospital, but I knew melodrama when I saw it (having sneakily read my mother's Danielle Steele novels, early reader). Mum said that when Alison came in she had looked at my face to distract herself. She saw inquiry, then a quiver of the top lip. She went to hug me but then realised I was giggling at her ridiculous sister. Apparently that made her feel better.

So there you go, the story of wierd Alison the funeral drama llama. I like stories :)

Renee said...


Honestly, I know your story is serious, but I was laughing throughout it. Started at the cow and ended at the quivering lip and ridiculous sister.

I too like stories, so thanks for the entertainment.


Emerald Arts said...

Nothing is ever completely serious in my family. Even when we're tearing each other to pieces we're still witty ;)

Glad you took it as it was told, it was and is funny :P

Flor Larios Art said...

I am so glad I met you, or better said thank you for finding me. You are an angel and this tribute to your friend have me here in tears. It is true we have to love and cherish our family and friends every moment. We have to live the present because is all we have.
Beautiful blog!

Anonymous said...

Your post is so poignant and so touching. You are so right. Time heals a small bit but I feel I will never be completely healed. Thanks so much for a place to really say what I think. No one really wants to hear me speak of Kathleen anymore. Some days are still so hard to bear(especially my birthday). Grief, the cost of loving deeply.

Renee said...

Barb: I love what you said, and I think that this is a place that when you comment, others will learn something.

Grief, the cost of loving deeply.

Love Renee

p.s. I love the grandbaby's middle name is Kathleen.

Anonymous said...

paragraph"Who Darlene cared about..."touches me deeply and reminds me to continue to try to be a person of support for Gus and Gregory even if I know it isn't good enough. Gus has a birthday Dec. 21st so I will be sure to remember it.It's the least I can do. I will also remember Travis and Marcie in my prayers who also lost their dear mom far to soon.