Tuesday, January 1, 2019

To Remember

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"Promise me you'll always remember:
You're braver than you believe,
And stronger than you seem, 
And smarter than you think."

~ Christopher Robin to Pooh

I gave a plaque with this quote to John two years ago, at the beginning of his valiant battle with a rare cancer of the blood, a battle he lost the Monday before Thanksgiving.  I wanted him to cling to these words, wanted him to remember every day through the hundreds of transfusions he received, through his steady decline how much I believed in him.  How brave and strong and smart I knew him to be.

Then I forgot that I had given it to him.   He never used the words brave, or strong, or smart when people marveled at how resilient he seemed, how courageous, how amazing that he survived beyond the initial prognosis of six months.  Instead, publicly he would credit it to his orneriness or stubbornness.  Privately, he would declare that he expected a miracle.  For hadn't he survived non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, several bouts of skin cancer.  He was going to beat these odds, too, and be the first to defeat what we had been told was incurable.  He didn't use the words, but every day he lived them.

I forgot about it as I sent him more cards, found other plaques, penned letters of acknowledgment and gratitude and encouragement, and grieved as I watched him decline,  eventually surrender to Home Health Care, and finally to Hospice services.  

Then, on a day following his death, when I could muster the courage to check out his computer and immediate surroundings, I found the plaque and shared it with my sister who had come to be with us, to be with me.  She encouraged me to place it where I could see it.  Where it could serve me as surely it had served him.

So, it now rests on my bedside table where it nudges me to remind myself in the morning and in the evening, in the moments when grief and loneliness descend on me like a sudden thunderstorm, when I fear I haven't enough years left to ever feel content again, that

You are braver than you believe,
And stronger than you seem,
And smarter than you think.

~ John to Angie

I repeat the words and hope someday I'll believe them.  Just not yet.