Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Giving in

Our sermon this week was about dying and giving in to death. Our preacher discussed how for those of us who are control freaks, asking for help is giving in and giving up. We give in to help the way we give in to our mortality, and only in doing those things can we truly live.

In the months since Sanna’s birth, I’ve reached a place of true comfort. My life is the way I want it, and for the first time in my entire life, it feels safe and settled. From here on out, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted it to be. At the same time, I live knowing that my mother’s early death just might predict my own. I live like my life might already be half over. It might.

Between the appointment with the surgeon and the biopsy, in that long period of more than two weeks, I had a sense of peace. I knew (and know) that it would probably be breast cancer that kills me, but that this wasn’t it. The biopsy needed to be done, because while I can afford to be wrong about the former, I could not afford to be wrong about the latter. My anxiety about the biopsy surrounded the drugs, my milk, and our travel plans, not the pathology report.

Motherhood has been easy for me. Getting there was hard, but life with our daughter has been blissful for me. I think daily about my mother, and I wonder if and hope that she was as satisfied as I am. As a child, I wanted to be a mother, and as a teenager, in the throes of early high school angst, I was convinced that as soon as I had a baby, everything would be perfect. If I had known then how truly happy I would be when I finally was a mother, I fear what I might have done differently during high school. Doing anything differently then would mean a life without Brooke and Sanna.

Thinking back on all those failed and missed cycles, I wish we had known not to try until the cycle that gave us Sanna. I feel physically ill when I remember one in particular, but I wouldn’t wish Sanna away for anything in the world. I do wonder if I would be anywhere near this happy with any other baby. I wonder if I just needed the time to heal or if I just needed Sanna.

Now that we have our child, I can give in to death. Sanna fills in the gaps, and my heart lacks nothing. Raising her is my vocation and my calling. She is our gift from God.

Friday, August 25, 2006


I’m hungry and have been gnawing on the nearly kaput edge of a wedge of parmesan. I’m the kind of person who eats parmigiano-reggiano for a snack, and I don’t entirely know what that says about me, other than that I’m a pretentious snob. We eat a lot of really expensive cheese, but since we’re also hippies, we save the rinds in the freezer for cooking.

We had friends over for dinner, and Brooke had made an excellent white bean dish that involved simmering the beans with rosemary and a parm rind. “Can you even believe it?” Brooke asked them. “Whole Foods sells parm rinds! Ha ha! What a rip-off!”

Our friends’ faces froze with subtly embarrassed smiles, and one asked very quietly, “So, um, where do you get your rinds?”

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Brooke asked me last night if her eyes looked yellow. She has blue eyes with a ring of greenish-brown in the middle, so I thought she might reasonably be talking about that. I tried to ask if she was talking about the whites of her eyes, but I couldn't remember the word for it, and all I came up with was "Scalia," which is wrong on a number of levels, not the least of which is that he just wouldn't fit there. She mimed clawing at her eyes and said, "Get it out! Get it out!"

The word is sclera.

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