My daughter's bravery has changed me

My daughter's bravery has changed me

I write distracted lines, incomplete poetry. I touch old writing, add notes for long projects, jot down inspiration with impatience, and hope it makes sense later.

Anything to avoid writing about my daughter. To not start the final diary I owe her, the pouring out of doses and symptoms and heartbreak, her brave moments and funny lines in the face of the horror and the cliff, the way she sees full sun in the last slanted lines of light between far-off, receding nimbus, just before the final flash, the dusk of almost gone, the false light of stars, and the black night of pure memory.

Anything but that. How she rages about being shoved aside or snickered at for her malformed voice and face, her chemo stare, her radiation figure. How she grins at me, or goes deadpan with a funny line. Her withering look when I nanny her about eating or taking care. Her sardonic, splendid humor in the face of diminishing, departure, and—I type with eyes averted, trusting my shaking hands—death.

How does one do this? How is it fair?

Why do some get to go on—reading aloud the offerings in the bakery case, trotting in absurd lime green shoes around the park, bickering with friends, sullen in cubicles—and my ferocious daughter, splendid in her art, her original askew, her defiance at injustice, must go Away?

I climbed out of the well for this?

Yes, it turns out. She has destroyed my dark pessimism with her bravery. When I feel behind me, wonder if I might slip down again, escape like a coward, avoid the hand-hold and hang-on and death bed still to come, I find her fearless stomp upon my earth, discover that her trembling self has collapsed that well, filled it in.

I could dig it up but I think not. I will follow her lead, forget the way down, and fill my heart instead with do-right days and best effort, loft these old wings, sit calm the hospital sits, turn the wheels and generate light, let the remaining days with her grind away my self-pity, as if it was always friable grist and not shield granite. I am laid bare by my daughter's brave end, whether it is one year or ten, laid bare for the fool and sad-sack I always was. "It doesn't matter anymore," she says inside me, and it is her girlish, steely voice, and this burnishing time, that finally makes it true. All my old suffering is diminished by the magnitude of losing the child I raised, and I am transformed, healed, by her dignity.

It is the most unbearable thing in the world, and it is not unbearable anymore. It is this world, see? This beautiful old world.

I am new here. My grown daughter Molly, whom I raised as a single father for her first ten years, had a 4cm tumor removed from her neck three months ago. It is such a rare cancer, and the largest ever found of its kind by a wide margin, that it's hard to say what her expectancy is. We will work very hard for three years. I join this discussion so I can learn and share, help others, and be ready for what comes.

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  • Such beautiful, evocative writing......you have a wonderful way of expressing yourself.

    Living with uncertainty........ xx

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