From early on, her life had been somewhat tragic. And on that fateful day, when she was hit in the head with a tether ball, well… that was pretty much the beginning of the end.
Up until then, her life had been good. She and her brother, who she was closest to in age, had a normal, fun childhood. Although she loved her older siblings, the age difference made it a bit difficult for them to be close; there were just a few too many years between them. No matter, there was love, the very best kind of ‘sibling rivalry’ and all was right within their little world.
Until that day…
It was a freak accident and one that usually wouldn’t have warranted a second thought. I mean, kids get hit in the head with tether balls all the time, right? No big deal, but just to make sure a precautionary trip to the Emergency Ward, a quick head scan and all would be well.
Except it wasn’t.
No, instead, their whole world was turned upside down.
Unfortunately, the head scan revealed more than just a bump on the head. They had found a tumour… right there on her frontal lobe.
Perhaps the tether ball incident had been a blessing in disguise.
“What to do?”
The doctors said that surgery (there could be more than one) might offer her hope and give her a better quality of life… but if left too long, this tumour might, no it “would” impact her life greatly, and “seizures” would become a regular occurrence in her life. Perhaps surgery would spare her.
Her parents made the best decision they could, with the information that was available to them, in the late 1960’s. They went for the surgery. They decided to give their daughter a fighting chance against what was sure to be a miserable, difficult life otherwise.
The surgery was “successful,” because it got out a lot of the tumour… but not all of it.
What was left, over time, would impact her brain functions and she would experience Grand Mal and epileptic seizures. And all this at a time when she should have been experiencing flirting, dancing, dates and the excitement of becoming a woman.
There was a period of time when she spoke what people thought was a foreign language; but doctors deciphered the gibberish and determined a tumour compromised language centre was making her speak each word, and sentence… backwards!
Months turned into years and years brought on adulthood.
Isolated, lonely… and feeling like a freak, she did the best she could. She had low self esteem, zero self confidence and had experienced very little of what life had to offer, because she had always been protected and taken care of.
The all too obvious disability, seemed to rear its ugly head, at what must have seemed like the most inopportune time… but she soldered on.
As luck would finally have it, she met a man, she fell in love; they were married and shortly after, she had a beautiful baby girl! Ahhhh, normality.
Life however, is never that straightforward, simple or fair.
She struggled to deal with the normalcy that she had ached for. The day to day routine of taking care of a child, a home and of being a wife, while constantly dealing with seizures, continued to erode her self confidence, pride and self respect. She was floundering. Drowning.
Who knows why any man leaves a woman and child. It’s impossible to know, but we shouldn’t judge.
“Never Judge a Man until You Have Walked in His Shoes.”
Perhaps he was too young, too weak, too insecure or he was just plain scared… in any case, he left and she was once again alone… with a child to care for.
This time, the best she could do, just wasn’t good enough. It was only a matter of time, and for various reasons, she lost custody of the one good thing she had in her life… her daughter.
The dark cloud that had hovered over her head, most of her life, was now bigger, darker and more threatening than ever.
Who knows why a woman hooks up with men that they know are not right (or good) for them.
“Sometimes even attention from a fool, is better than no attention at all.”
Put yourself in her place. You’re sick, lonely, and you’ve lost so very much throughout your life… and it’s not like you ever had much to start with! You meet a man, he pays attention to you, he treats you like you’re something special (for awhile, anyway) and you fall… you fall hard.
It happens over and over again, until you just don’t give a shit. You don’t feel the pain, you don’t recognise the abuse, and you start to interpret bad as good, because as miserable as you are… it’s better than being alone. And he must love you… he’s with you, right?
Years pass… more bad choices of men and a few more children. She was never really living, she was simply existing; she was holding on for dear life.
Middle age is rough on all of us, but if your ageing, in a bad relationship, being abused, coping with seizures and living on next to nothing (because your partner controls your disability money) life tends to suck.
She never even noticed the subtle symptoms, that must have been there… the persistent bloating, the pelvic and abdominal pain, the difficulty eating and feeling nauseous all the time.
She did however, at some point, notice the large lump in her gut… Did she panic? Did she care? Did she say, “Thank God, this is my way out.” Who knows?
Once they were told, her family intervened and tests confirmed what everyone was afraid of; ovarian cancer. A mass the size of a large melon. Sure, they would operate… there would be chemo, but her chances were slim.
She reluctantly agreed to “temporarily” move in with her, now adult daughter and her family; but the ‘plan’ was to go back to her partner in Nowhere, Texas. It wasn’t a good situation, but it was all she knew… it was all she had.
They say “God works in mysterious ways.” And whether it was God, the Universe, Mother Nature, Karma, whatever… there are miracles.
She somehow found peace (real peace) with her diagnosis, and that was a miracle. She never complained or asked why. She accepted her fate and opened herself up to the love and caring her family and friends showered upon her. She had a good, positive, outlook and for the first time ever, she began to live her life.
She was staying with, and being looked after by her daughter and grandchildren. Her disability money was being sent directly to her and for the first time, in a long time, she had control of her life and her money!
Her sister remembers how excited she was at buying a CD! Yes… buying a CD filled her with joy. She also fell in love with a piece of art, from a local artist, at an art fair and she brazenly bought it!
She was becoming the person she should have been for all those years.
She took short trips, enjoyed spending what little money she had, she embraced and loved her family; and enjoyed the kind of friendships that that she had been deprived of, for so for many years.
She was being “transformed.”
She was also dying.
The surgery and chemo had bought her time, but not nearly enough. Eighteen months may seem like nothing to you and me; it passes in what feels like a blink of an eye… but when you’re wrapped up in the pure joy of life, you feel, you really feel the love of the Universe; a minute can seem like an eternity.
She did more, experienced more, felt more and loved more in those eighteen months, than she had her entire life.
She was content to die… She wasn’t afraid or remorseful. No regrets.
When the time came, she was greeted by someone who she knew, loved and obviously trusted. She opened her eyes, stretched out her arms (to an unseen being) and willingly followed that spirit to the other side. She left her family and friends at her deathbed and she began her new adventure.
She was finally free from the body that had betrayed her for so many years, free from a life of mistakes and bad decisions, free to be the spirit that she was intended to be all along.
She was whole.
She was happy.
She was free.
I did not know this woman, but wish I had.
She is not unlike us.
This piece was commissioned by a new friend who wanted her sister’s story to be told.
It was my honour to write it.