Monday, May 08, 2006

Back, and revived.

My first year of college is over. I thought it was never coming.

That's all I wanted to say for that part, that I was finished with my freshman year.

I have something more important to say. This weekend, I almost went to shoot pictures at the Kentucky Derby, but decided to go with my family to go and visit Mama Grace, a family member of mine who lives in Ohio, about 6 1/2 hours away from us.

Recently, Virgil, her husband, died recently after being sick for some time now. Mama Grace was seemingly fine up until his death. She lived with him in a nursing home just to be with him, to help take care of him.

Now she's there to be taken care of.

A little over a week ago, we found out from a minor test that she had cancer. The whole weekend my family and I have been talking about how it's common to see someone who has been married for so long go through this. One spouse dies and the other becomes deathly ill shortly after.

When we first walked in, all I could see was her son Frankie sitting next to her in a recliner by the window. The room was dimly lit with ambient light, and she lay facing him, asleep with her face traced by an oxygen tube.

In the room there were only two beds, a few small tables, a recliner, her TV, and two cabinets. She lay on the far bed, and the one pushed next to hers, empty where Virgil was resting a little over a month ago. This was my first though when I entered the room.

We were there when the doctor came to tell Mama Grace that her cancer was very aggressive, and recommended she focused on the quality of life, not the quantity.

"Just let me know if you need me to do anything for you," he told her with the most sincerity I've ever seen from a paid caregiver.

"No, no," Mama Grace said. "I'll have to do it on my own from now on."

It was amazing to see her sit there and learn about all this. I've never felt so intimate with a situation such as this. Helplessness among other emotions took over.

"Why is it everyone else seems to have known about this?" she asked. "You all have been keeping this from me."

We hadn't. No one had . It just came fast.

It was all so much of a learning experience this weekend. I've never seen someone in this state.

She admitted to being scared, admitted to not wanting it to come on her so fast, and told us a few regrets.

Mama Grace is so genuine. Her biggest request was that people don't forget her. The doctor told her he'd never forget her. He treated her, her husband, and her son, who died in his early forties from stomach cancer.

"When I write my book, your family is going to take up a large part of it," he told her.

One regret Mama Grace told me she had, was not seeing us as much as she could have while we were growing up, but my regret is that my family didn't see her as much while we were growing up. She always came to us, and all too often we didn't journey the 6 1/2 hour drive. One time. That's all we ventured.

I have no one to blame, that's just how things worked out. I could blame my parents, or just as easily say that she'd slipped to the back of my mind, until she was sick. I'm not going to though, what has happened is I've learned a valuable lesson from all of this, and it's a personal one. Even if I told you the extent of my weekend, and how much this has blown me away, you still wouldn't understand, and if you say you would, then I didn't want you to try. This is something I needed this weekend, and that's enough for you to know, that it was for me, Mama Grace and the others who came and went in that small room.

I've just been so moved by being around her this weekend, and looked at her and thought about so much of what she said that I had to do my part in keeping her memory alive. I don't care if it's just some random person who reads this, I hope you just look back on reading this maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, or whenever, and just remember that true love still exists, and that way, Mama Grace will get her wish.