Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sylvia Easley, 9 Nov 1943 - 19 Dec 2007

My aunt Sylvia died this morning. She told her (grown) kids to go to school, asked for a drink of water, and took her last breath. She had end-stage pancreatic cancer and multiple myeloma, and she was at home, in a hospital bed in her living room.

We lived our lives at a great distance. Sylvia lived in Texas (San Antonio, Houston, Kerrville), ran a balloon delivery business, married a few men (not at the same time), and loved fiercely. She was the strongest and most indomitable person I ever knew. The way she lived with cancer taught me how to do it: You live. Just keep living. Keep doing things you want to do. If your bones are brittle, go to a water park and ride all the slides, and then take meds and sleep all the next day. If people you love are there, spend every ounce of your energy laughing with them, and then take meds and sleep all the next day. Don't be "sick" with cancer. It's an annoyance. It thinks it's in charge, so let it think so, but quietly go about your own business and don't let it stop you.

Until it's too strong. And then, recognize that you're tired, and lie back and marvel at the fresh, clean taste of cold water, and listen to songs that have always moved you, and wake up a few times a day to smile at the faces of the loving ones who surround you. Go home, and have your dog lie on the bed with you, and open the blinds each day to watch your own neighborhood and your own yard. Sleep, while your heart keeps beating and beating, while your nails turn dark and then pink again, while your breathing gets ragged and then smooth again.

And then, one morning, speak softly to your children, and just...Stop.