Thursday, January 24, 2008

the heart of kk

The last 10 days have been full up of sickness for me (and kk too, but her illness was relegated to her face). It started last Monday with a killer sore throat and then moved into my bronchial area almost immediately.

From Thursday through Monday, I barely slept due to excessive out-of-control hacking. I was banished to the couch in my own little cozy cave (many pillows and a huge sleeping bag). I watched mindless tv into the wee hours of the night and coughed and coughed and coughed. I was able to catch a couple of hours of sleep in the early morning hours and then I would face the day in a hazy state of mind.

On Tuesday, I finally went to the doctors and I guess I had a cold that caused an asthma flare up. Now, I am on steroids—which I detest taking, but I’m glad they exist and codeine cough syrup that makes me feel shitty.

Anyhow, this time of year always seems to carry with it heavy burdens for our hearts and minds and bodies and souls. Tomorrow is the anniversary of kk’s mama’s passing. It has been 6 years. The time since she faded from this earth has passed so fast and so slow all at once.

Kk’s mom died of breast cancer. She was diagnosed at stage IV and then went on to live graciously and with a fierce appetite for life for 7 whole years.

It is only fitting that kk’s body gets tired and often times sick around this time of year. It is new for me to also join in the physical ramifications of the losses in our family, but this year has proven a strange one of sorts. What better time to reflect on sickness and death and getting through it all than when sickness has been trickling through our bodies reminding us of the importance of health and balance.

We really have been through so much together. I have such deep respect for how k has weathered through being slammed to her knees by the presence of disease and sickness in her family and then rising up through the aftermath of the ravages of cancer. That aftermath is the fading away of loved ones from this planet—this reality.

In 2002 her sweet mother, C, took her last breath and kk and her dad and her brother and her grandmas and her dad’s brother and her mom’s sister and a handful of friends and me, we were there around her bed in kk’s childhood home. We were there, together, that last day when she struggled for air and then was no more.

For two weeks hospice was in the house helping to prepare for those last breaths. KK took off work, and I took off grad school and we stayed there with her family. All through those two weeks, friends came though the house to say good-bye to C.

At first, we would wheel her mom around the block in the cold January air and then it got to be too much for her. Kk would stay by her mom and curl up in bed beside her and talk to her relentlessly. Kk cared for her mother with a fierce, raw heart; a heart not willing to crawl up into itself and suck on its own ache; rather, a heart willing to set aside self and open up completely for the spiritual and physical needs of another human being. I was witness to a miracle of sorts—the miracle of real courage and loving-kindness amidst the suffering of coming loss.

And then at night kk and I would take the stairs to the basement and drink whiskey and search for mindlessness and hold each other close.

Sometimes, we would sing around the bedside. C wanted old classic tunes more than spirituals (Unfortunately, I know more hymns by heart than rock and roll tunes). But, we would belt out music and C would be happy. K’s friends from childhood, middle school, high school and college all stopped in to check on kk and her family. Her friends from out of state flew in to be by her side. Good, thoughtful people—good, good friends of kk’s parents made sure things were held together. One friend stayed all day everyday attending to phone calls and the matters of daily life. Others brought food—and not just sweets and cookies, but healthy food to nourish bodies in times of stress. Others brought laughter and company and solace.

I kept a detailed journal of those weeks. Every night down in the basement I would write the events of the day and reflect on what was happening before our eyes. Kk had asked me to keep the details for her—to be her memory. About a year after her mom’s passing I was on a work retreat, and I had that damn journal with me and then it disappeared. It is the only journal I have ever lost. Sometimes, I think the spirits stole it from me. Always, I know I will still be kk’s memory (if she needs the details) from that time.

And, her keeper of memories from the time five years later when her uncle (her dad’s only brother) also died from yet another kind of cancer also before his sixtieth birthday. Only that time we were not there when he let out his last breath in a hospital in Chicago; we arrived 4 minutes too late. But we stayed with his body for hours. We lingered till he grew cold.

It is my desire to remember to harness the constant teachings connected to living and the dying that is bound to this being alive.

K’s mother loved life with a zeal that was abounding and still is abounding, cause she certainly passed on her love for adventure and beauty and life to her daughter who I am lucky enough to know and love and curl up next to at night—then, wrapped in her arms, I listen to the wild thumping of a kind, selfless, courageous heart—the heart of kk.


amanda said...

What a beautiful remembrance. She was lucky to have both of you there, and it sounds like she was an amazing woman you both were lucky to have, too.
Sending you guys healing thoughts.

mrsbluemont said...

I love this post. Thank you for sharing your memories here and taking the opportunity to reflect on the cycle of life around us. I'm so glad you and kk have each other. I can't imagine losing a parent alone. Now as you two bring new life into the world, I know you will pass on those memories and the heart that moved you both.

Hope you feel better.

myryah said...

What a wonderful, inspired, beautiful post! K is such a lucky woman to have you as her partner!!

myryah said...

What a wonderful, inspired, beautiful post! K is such a lucky woman to have you as her partner!!