Sunday, December 19, 2010

Moments and Memories

This is not the way I remember it
How long is a moment? Fifteen seconds? Fifteen minutes? How long is a memory? Forever? I looked out the window to see the sun reflecting off the brilliant green moss on a tree in the backyard. The hills, looking toward the Sierras, were golden as the storm clouds finally broke. I thought, "I will capture this moment with a camera and make it permanent." I walked 20 feet, affixed a lens and back to the door. Maybe 45 seconds had passed and now the tree looked gray as the clouds had again shifted. Somehow I delude myself in thinking a memory is something solid or fixed, or that a moment can be held unchanged with a photo or a video. Yesterday, while sorting through pictures from the last year, I happened on to a photo that I got from my mom's camera. The image showed me in a hospital bed with my brother, Daren, and my sister Leslie standing near the head of the bed wearing full gown and mask. I was shocked to see myself. The picture was taken while I was in septic shock after the bone marrow transplant. My kidneys were not yet working, so that the 5 liters of fluid they used to resuscitate me were still visible in my face. My left eye was bloody from a vessel I burst while vomiting. I attempted a smile, but was quite unconvincing. I looked at the photo and realized that I didn't remember looking like this. Not so much the physical appearance, more so the fatigue I now saw in my countenance. Somehow, my memory had softened the experience as I originally saw it.  I realized that memories can subtly shift as do the hues reflected off the moss covered bark. The tree doesn't change; just the way we see it.

A moment is not defined by time, rather what an experience feels like in the immediate.We grab urgently at dandelions already on the wind exclaiming, "This moment is so precious, I must hold onto to it forever," as I frantically adjust the focus and see it through a viewfinder only to find that the feeling has already passed.
Last night, Caitlin performed with a group that did a Christmas show with dancing and singing. I had no idea that she could dance so well. However, my early Christmas present came on the final number as she stepped forward to sing the solo on "Sing Noel." Her voice was angelic. I didn't even know she had a solo. I sat overcome with emotion as the moment washed over me. I am sure that someone videotaped it and I could watch it again. I know I would enjoy that. But I could never recapture that moment of surprise and wonder; it was enough.

The last year has been wonderful, yet relatively normal with regard to my health. I find myself more and more occupied with the responsibilities at work which consequently occupy more of my thoughts. I actively must remind myself to 'find the beauty in every day'. The memory of what it felt like two years may be changing. But how can I really know that since memory is all we have and it is not static. What I do know is that there are more surprises and wonders that lay before us. New moments and new memories. We must never cease to be amazed. Pause; savor the feeling.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best month ever!

You don't always notice feeling better. It is often not a recognizable moment. Whether you are ill for a week or a year, when we finally have a good day sometimes we are so focused on getting our to-do list done we have failed to notice that we are moving a little faster or with less pain. You can't remember when the sniffles went a way and breathing became easier. However, at some point when there is a lull in the activity we realize, 'Oh, my pain is gone," or the amazing revelation, "Yes, now I remember what normal feels like." Ironically, it is then that the aha moment comes and you feel like the blind person who has just regained their sight. Then you immediately pray, "I hope I feel like this tomorrow." To those who are chronically ill, imagine being healthy so long that you forget what it feels like to be sick. That was November.

For two weeks in Paris and Barcelona I never felt sick and we really didn't even talk about it. There were just too many other things far more interesting. I had been praying for months that I would be healthy enough to travel. Then I prayed that Al Qaeda would not bomb the Metro. Then I prayed that the Parsians would end their strike so that our plane would have fuel. All of my prayers were answered and then came the one I didn't expect, to forget that I was even sick. Truly a Gift from God. I thank Him. I thank my brother Harold and sister-in-law Darlene who invited us and housed us. I thank Dr Shrier and Dr Sardar for both suggesting and giving me an infusion on gamma globulin to boost my immune system. But, of course, I mostly thank Barbie, my reason for living.

But wait! There's more!
Two days after we returned, we left for Park City, Utah to spend Thanksgiving with all of our children, their spouses and Barbie's family. Even in 4 degree weather, the warmth of their company made it a fabulous occasion. We had so much to be thankful for.

On our return, I knew in two days I would begin chemotherapy again. Memory is a funny thing. I thought I knew what to expect. But just as you are surprised when you suddenly recognize you are well. Equally, I forgot how hard chemo can be. It seems like Barbie remembers this better than I do. But as I always say, "No matter how bad I feel today, I will feel better soon." And I always do.
Hope is a marvelous thing.