“Will you meditate with me?” he asks.
I’d said yes for many years.
Chemotherapy was ordered hours ago.
A cursed name
That hasn’t yet arrived.
I have nothing left to give.
At 3 AM that morning, my cell phone rang.
He’d called from downstairs.
“I can’t breathe,” he said.
“Will you help me?”
“I’ll be right there,” I said.
It’s been like this for days,
I feel his pounding pulse and call the hospital.
“Take him to the nearest ER,” the doctor says.
I’ve done that many times.
They don’t know what to do with the mess of him.
“Can you make it to Rochester?” I ask.
“There are hospitals along the way.”
I pack his bag while he uses a borrowed cane,
Staggers to the car.
My warrior husband reduced to this.
I hold his hand while I drive through darkness
Toward his doctors at the cancer center.
Listen to him gasp.
We arrive in a pink coral dawn.
Birds sing as I run inside for help.
Two men in blue scrubs bring a wheelchair.
No rooms ready in oncology.
I beg and change their minds.
No one stops me when I raid the linen room for sheets.
No one helps me make his bed.
I roll his head up so he can breathe,
So he can rest,
But I cannot.
Two kinds of cancer now his doctor says.
He offers one last chance.
It will kill him fast or give him months.
My husband’s name is Victor.
He considers the choice.
His hero energy flickers.
Mine is snuffed.
“Will you stay with me until the chemo comes?” he asks at midnight.
“I must lie down,” I say.
That means no.
For the first time I say no.
“I’ll be back early.”
Burning with shame and hopelessness,
I drive to the Cancer Society Lodge,
Crawl in bed and sob before I fall asleep.
My phone rings at 6 AM.
“I’m OK and I love you,” he says.
The infusion has begun.
He’s not OK, but I’m forgiven.
Alone in bed, eleven years later,
Regret drops me like a wave.
A memory so raw and deep.
I sob until I fall asleep.
At dawn, I dream a Blue Morpho Butterfly,
Sapphire wings as wide as my outstretched hand.
As blue as the Virgin Mother’s robe.
The color of forgiveness.
I rarely write poetry, but the memory came in this form along with the dream. Thanks to Ellen Schmidt of Writing Room Workshops who encourages my experiments. Do you have regrets, even though you know you did the best you could? How do you forgive yourself for being human? For other posts about marriage and caregiving, see Bookends of a Marriage or Give Thanks For This Imperfect Life. I also suggest Dealing with Regret and Grief by Claire Bidwell Smith.
I’ll be in Columbus Ohio May 17-18 giving a workshop called Finding Wisdom in Aging and Loss. Please leave comments. I’ll respond soon.