Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Written by my dear friend, Kat... total inspiration for me!

Readers, I did not write this piece, I am merely sharing (with Kat's permission, of course) a wonderful story of love, inspiration, cancer and family.  Please enjoy the journey as much as I did and remember to say " I love you" as much as possible to those that matter.   As Kat's story shows, you never know when you are called up to Heaven.....

Written by Kat Roessler:

I want to share my grandmother’s story with you. At 69, she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. She was given 3-6 months to live if she was lucky. But my Grandmother was a fighter, survivor and a real hoot, if you knew her.
I was only 13 when she was diagnosed but I became a grown up that minute. I went to every chemo session with her. They were usually 6 hour infusions in a room with other patients. My grandmother was the house entertainer! She would chat-up and cheer-up every single person in the room, they were mostly older men and women but we also had two 12 year olds. They had a TV but on the days my grandmother and I were there? It was a Part-ay! She sang, I sang with her… I journaled furiously while she entertained. I was writing her story while she lived it. I have a closet full of journals. I have kept them since I was 9 years old (that’s also when I started writing poetry).

My grandmother was my mother, father, everything. She took care of my mother, my sister and me. I always felt like my mother was just my out-of-control older sister. She is a smiling dragon of barbed innuendos. But that’s another story. Anything I know about being a good wife or mother or person came from my grandma.

When my grandmother lost her hair (she loved her hair and even when it was old and gray she kept it long and wore it in carefully arranged bun), I wept for her. She didn’t cry or complain; she laughed and said, “Well that’s a relief! One less thing I have to fuss over and deal with! Let’s go find a classy wig!”

That was my grandma’s spirit. She handled the grit, and pain and every ugly, grueling aspect of cancer and chemo and sickness with grace and humor. I sobbed crying for the greatest role model, friend, mother, teacher, counselor, and priestess that my grandmother embodied. She looked at my sister, my mom and me and said, Mark my words: I will fight, love, laugh and LIVE through this for years to come. I will prove the doctors wrong; I’m going to live a heck of a lot longer than 3-6 months. They will NOT put a timeline on me, my life, or my vitality!

And she did just that. She (we) lived through a full hysterectomy, almost weekly grueling chemo sessions, treatments, appointments, and 2 more surgeries. I was 13 when she was diagnosed and given 3-6months to live. She eventually passed away a month before my 16th birthday.

When they said it was ‘her time,’ they moved her to a hospice suite (her hospital room with a room attached with a cot and a couch and a reclining chair for my mom, sister and me to sleep in). The doctors told us she would be passing that night or the next day. She hung on for two WEEKS. Every bit the proudest of the proud Fighting Irish/from Queens, NY hanging onto to each moment left on Earth. Those 14 days in the hospice suite were the hardest. All of the nurses, night security, cafeteria staff, orderlies, basically every hospital employee knew that the term “visiting hours” did not apply to my mom, sister or me. I was on summer vacation between my sophomore and junior year in high school so I was there almost 24/7 with her.

We were granted a small miracle from heaven one of those days in the hospice fortnight. One night, my grandmother woke up! She had been heavily sedated with morphine to keep her comfortable, was fed through IV, and the doctor’s said that, theoretically, it was impossible for her to be conscious or coherent enough to sit up and talk the way she was. It was truly a miracle. It lasted about an hour, but in that time she talked to my mom, sister and me each in turn and alone. This, of course, what after she sang, “Let Me Entertain You,” to the room.

I don’t know what she said to my mom or my sister, but I will never forget what she said to me. “Kathy, you are quirky and brilliant. You have a strength in you that is special that your mother and sister don‘t have. Take care of them, I worry about them but I know you will be fine, we are survivors. Always stay close to your sister and mother and be strong.”

With that, I told her I loved more than anything in the world and would be fine. That if she saw grandpa (her long-since-passed husband), hitch a ride to heaven with him. We’ll be ok, you can go now.

I, of course, was not ok and many, many mistakes in the years that followed.. I don’t regret any of them because they have made me who I am today: a strong, quirky, brilliant, survivor. She passed away shortly thereafter. I stayed awake for the next few days straight to give her the only departing gift I had to offer, an eloquent eulogy worthy of what she meant to me.

The day of the funeral, in a big Catholic Church, I thought I would pass out as I walked to the lectern to read my eulogy. I was certain I would falter, and cry and just as I was about to turn away from the microphone and crumble, I felt HER holding me up at that podium. I was embraced by a warm strength that I know came from her… I read every word clearly and from heart. I wish I had not lost that eulogy, I wish I had made a copy and not left it on the lectern to be thrown out… but I do remember two quotes I began and ended it with:

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so:
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
DIE NOT, poor Death; not yet canst thou kill me!”

-John Donne (intro poem to John Gunther’s “Death Be Not Proud”)

…and I finished it with a verse from Longfellow’s Psalm of Life:

“Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate -
Still achieving, still pursuing!
As we learn to labor and to wait.”

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for allowing me to post this Kat. It was an honor! Love you, girl!