We’re cutting out her uterus today.
She is frail and shaky, and her soft eyes are clouding over with fear. It is difficult holding conversations with her — her mind keeps straying, her gaze drifting around the room while she speaks. The most disturbing thing is that pallid, gray color that her skin has taken to, and how it hangs around her frame. Like drapes in a window, blocking out the sun. Her face is shallow and sunken from her poorly appetite and her liver’s refusal to process what little she does offer to it. Her hand is wan and papery, and slightly shudders in mine, like butterfly wings in the breeze.
But she is so beautiful. I have never seen her so beautiful. The way she looked at me when I clasped her hand and smiled into her face, the way she smiled back, almost made her seem like she was before the chemo. Before her first husband passed. Before she remarried for the comfort. Despite being so on the fritz, so anxious with worry and paralyzed with apprehension, she smiled back. She looked down at my hand in hers and squeezed, and beamed back in my face, as if daring me to be scared or worried for her. As if for that one moment, when I looked to the dying cancer patient for comfort, she had everything under control, like she always has. Like she would be there for me if anything went wrong.
As her children scurried around the room, and out the room, and then back in, and we smiled violently at each other, I realize that she is holding my hand, and that is when the dam breaks. With the flood comes bouts of hysterical laughter. Raucous and bitter, we sat on the hospital bed together and laughed. At her children, my parents, the doctors, the entire facility and all their gadgets, at her tumor, her hysterectomy, at the white walls, the chairs, the patients in waiting; we laugh with spittle in their faces.
It is moments like this that give life the love it needs to be alive. It is moments like this that show us how broken and alone we are. These are the times that show us the beauty in finding out that each other’s feelings are one in the same. When you sync up with somebody, and the mirror neurons in your brains reflect one another, and you can live inside another persons head and see just how ridiculous you look through their very eyes. It is moments like this that we realize how ridiculous life really is.
She has helped me conclude, and I her, that what matters most is not how well you walk through the fire. What really matters is knowing how badly you are burning, and to be okay with that, and dance and laugh and rejoice in the flames.
If she dies this month, she will live through me in the next, for now I know some of her pain. Now I know her strength to endure it. Now I know her love for it all. Now I know the grace in her heart. Now I know that I can be graceful too.
Thank you, grandma.