Good luck and goodnight Abigail. We love you so much.



Image credit: Abigail holds a bird given to her by her medical team. 
It's given in honor of finishing her last round of chemotherapy and with the message, "Spread your wings and fly." From her Facebook photo album. 


“Where’s the pizza?” my husband asks.

We eat dinner out. He wants to make sure one of us brought the leftovers in from the car and put them in the refrigerator.

“I don’t know,” I respond from my reading chair as he walks over and takes the pizza box resting under my book off of my lap.

Oh.

He smiles gently though doesn’t mention that I still have my sunglasses on. I notice that when it’s hard to read while squinting over Jalaluddin Rumi’s poem about night travelers who search the darkness instead of running from it (Search the Darkness, The Pocket Rumi, edited by Kabir Helminski, p. 53).

I’m dwelling on the part where Rumi says that night travelers are full of light.

Here it is again: adversity is a harvest opportunity. Those night travelers are full of light from a practice of softening and opening while in the darkness of pain.

I think about Abigail, and that she knows about this type of harvest. (I meet her about a year and a half before she is diagnosed with cancer and while I am in treatment for lymphoma. I’m now stable.)

She just died.

Abigail passed from complications during an autologous stem cell transplant. She is thirty-one.  

I’m sad and shocked. I knew she was very sick. I knew about stem cell rescue statistics. So why does her passing feel sudden and unexpected?

Because she thought, spoke, and lived like she wasn’t sick. Well, it’s more than that. She lived a moment as the best ever, even at her sickest. She had that kind of life-loving spirit.

Even when her stem cells are being drawn to save for re-entry later, her “no big deal, I can do this, wait, I can do this with humor and acceptance” comes through. As if giving a White House tour, in a video she says:

“Welcome! Here I am at the hospital…blood being drawn. Stem cells! As you can see, I have a corner view.” She gestures to large windows and raises her eyebrows in jollity, making me wonder if she’s at a five-star hotel. With a click of her tongue, a nod, and grin, she closes with an Edward R. Murrow mimic. “Good luck and good night.” Then she smiles like an Olympian who has already won a gold medal.

And just a few weeks ago when her healthy stem cells were being reintroduced into her body, a group of nurses gather to sing happy birthday. Abigail opened to the love, raised her arms, and directed their song as if conducting a choir.

Abigail was happy.

Overflowing happy. I see it in her short simple videos: a close-up glee of a sparkler aflame, pleasure in seeing rowing crews glide by on a river outside her window, sounds of the Pacific lapping on the shoreline, a recording of her beloved Stanton’s Daffy Duck voice. And the video of a butterfly visit and request: “Butterfly, tell me your secrets.”

I think that butterfly gleaned from Abigail’s secrets. That black and white swallowtail probably flits by for insight about how she lives and loves. How she makes people feel. (Like the person before her is the most important in the world.)

Her happiness is evident in our conversations. Even ones about tough topics.

We talk about how both her brother and my son die unexpectedly. She says, “You know how when someone dies they’re still here?” I smile and tell her about the day a hummingbird flies into my school classroom and lands at my feet when I am in early grief about my son’s passing. Her face lights up as if she knows that bird. She speaks with a heart-connected sparkle in her eye, “I feel my brother nearby like that.” And then we share beautiful and quirky ways we’ll visit loved ones after passing on.

She calls around the end of June.

She talks about the coming stem cell capture procedure. She’s thinking a lot about that. Well, not that exactly. She’s thinking about love. And those who love her.

She hopes so much that they feel her love. I listen to what I believe is one of the most precious soliloquies I’ve ever heard about her deep and abiding love. Her voice sings in joy.

In love.

She loves them and she knows they love her. She can feel it.  It’s like nothing else matters. There is nothing else to do.

I feel like I’m part of a privileged awareness.

I take in her message.

She thanks me for listening and ends with what she tells everyone she meets, “I love you so much.”

I miss Abigail. I think of all those people missing her right now. Her fearless journey reminds me that love enlarges when I face difficulty with an open heart in community with others. Her passing invites a high calling: face your joy and despair at once.

With inner brilliance beacons, Abigail shows us how.



13 comments:

  1. Eloquently written Susan, what a beautiful story and what a beautiful person, Abigail. I'm so sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh thank you, Andi. She is so beautiful. I want to spread her amazing light. xo

      Delete
  2. Thank you for sharing that with us. Peace, from Denton.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. And thank you-- peace back to you.

      Delete
  3. I didn't know you had lymphoma, and am thankful you are stable. Thank you for sharing Abigail's brave story. I want to be brave, loving, and surrounded by butterflies too. You, my friend, are also a beautiful example of bravery. Another poignant blog post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I too dream of being surrounded by butterflies, Nancy. Thank you for being here and for your kindness. <3

      Delete
  4. Thank you Susan for sharing this. I am glad to hear you are currently stable with your battle. I grew up with Abigail, and I can't stop remembering her beautiful infectious smile! She lit up every room she walked in to. I have had a very heavy heart since learning of her passing. I just got home from visiting my Husband's Uncle who is in the hospital, and was recently diagnosed with stage 4 Renal cancer. Also, my oldest brother is fighting stage 4 Melanoma. I feel like everyone around me is getting sick, already sick, or passing away due to this terrible disease. I am not complaining... I am very lucky to be healthy, and be the Mother of 3 healthy little boys. I am just leaving a comment to thank you for sharing this. Abigail was an inspiration to so many. She will truly be missed, but never forgotten! I hope you continue to remain stable, and you overcome this terrible disease. Stay strong, and keep up your faith! I will pray for you for healing and peace. God Bless you<3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Jessie. I'm glad you left a comment and introduced yourself. I also remember how Abigail lights up a room and that smile, that glorious smile. I still am in shock and denial that she has truly transformed and gone on. And at the same time, I'm deeply grateful for the gift of sharing time with her.

      I am so sorry to hear about all that you are carrying. You husband's uncle and your brother. That's a lot. I've been part of support groups who say that it is the care givers, those who love the sick, who need extra special care and well wishes from others. So I send you a support hug. Being ill is one thing, however watching those we love suffer hurts so much more. (I've been a caregiver to my husband who is now cured of 2 late-stage primary cancers. I tell you that to remind us of the hope and strength).

      I live in Florida and am not able to attend Abigail's memorial. I'd be so happy to meet you. (My daughter's baby is due anytime right now.) I will be there in spirit.

      Thank you for your prayers and peace. I send you mine. xo

      Delete
    2. Oh, and I am so healthy! Though my cancer is called incurable, I believe I am healed :)).

      Delete
  5. Thank you Susan! I haven't been on the other side, as far as being the sick one... But I truly am in need of a hug right about now-that means more than you know! Thank you. I am sorry to hear you won't be able to attend Abigail's Memorial. Congrats on your new Grand Baby. That's so exciting! I would love to meet you too someday if possible. I'm glad you had the pleasure of getting to know Abigail. She truly was an amazing woman! Thank you for you prayers. I will keep you in mine as well:) Stay positive, & always remember to keep up your Faith<3 XoXo

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm crying now, both from your tender words for Abigail and for the world's loss. I wish I had known her. May she and I would have been fast and dear friends, because she was so skilled at friendship and love. I'm sending you a big, warm package of hugs to unpack and wrap around yourself whenever you need them. ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Harmony, she was a love and light slinger. Her leaving (transforming?) has left so many both weeping and joyous for her continuation. Thanks for you hugs. I'm sending them back to you.

      Delete