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Saturday
Feb162013

THIS IS WHAT CANCER LOOKS LIKE [TMI]

7 years ago today my mom, Marcia Goldstein died of Multiple Myeloma. On the day of her  death-aversary, I LIKE TO WRITE ABOUT THE SHIT I'M GOING THROUGH, in the hopes it might help anyone else who's going through shit too. 

This is the last picture I have of our family together before my mom died. 

I'm not sure who suggested we take a photo on this day. Our entire family had gathered at our house by this time, knowing that we were close to the end of my mom's life...and yep, somebody said aloud "let's take a picture." I remember thinking to myself: it's important that we do this now, even though I don't want to. Even though I want to run screaming out the door and pretend like none of this is happening. It's important that we do this...because we might not ever have the chance again.

And so we smiled for the camera.

And now this is the last picture I have of my family. So, in a strange way, this is an incredibly special photograph. And yet, this is not a picture I have in a frame, or happily pull up on my iPhone to show a friend over brunch. In fact, it's not a picture I've shown anyone ever. Because when I look at this picture, I feel nothing but sadness.

I barely recognize my mom here. Her normally rosy cheeks look pale and gaunt. Her wavy hair just looks scary and unbrushed. And her eyes, usually so lively, show a woman who feels anything but. I think she was clearly just done fighting by then. She was 55...and looked so much older.   

But this is what cancer looks like...and this is what kids whose mom is about to die look like...and this what a man whose wife of 35 years is about to die looks like. 

Pretty shitty all around. 

So now I have this photo that I don't really know what to do with. This last memory of a family that, in some ways, doesn't even exist anymore. Things have changed, we have changed, and the simple fact that my mom isn't here anymore, makes us all just so damn different. 

But that's what happens when someone dies...things change. And things change in a gigantic fucking way. And they keep changing in ways you could never even expect. As with this photo, sometimes you just don't know what to do with it all. Even after 6 years of dealing and coping and compartmentalizing the fact that my mom is dead, I still feel challenged by the task of figuring out what to do with my feelings sometimes. Her death almost feels like a Rubik's cube...just when I spin shit around enough to get all the colors lined up on one side, I remember that all the other sides are still screwed up. And so, I've given up in a way...not on coping, of course, but I've given up on the idea that I will ever reach this magic place of just being OK with it all. That place doesn't exist--at least for me so far.

My mom actually did solve a Rubik's cube once. She was obsessed with it for awhile back when it first came out in the 80's, and we each had one that we would constantly be fiddling with. I remember I came home from school one day and when I walked in she was sitting at the kitchen table. She calmly looked over at me and told me to go in my room and look for a surprise on my bed. When I walked in and saw that perfect cube, with all the colors lined up I think I screamed out loud in delight. I brought it with me to school the next day and I was like a celebrity. I couldn't believe that I had a mom that was cool enough to have figured it all out. She SOLVED a Rubik's Cube! Little did I know that she had actually bought a book that told you exactly what to do to solve it--I found out that little tidbit years later. But I still wish I had a picture of how happy we both were on that day...over a silly little puzzle. 

That's one I'd put in a frame in a heartbeat.

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