Monday, June 25, 2012
I was slicing a watermelon today, and another kind of memory came to mind.
A couple of years ago, when my friend Diane was gravely ill with cancer and staying in the hospital, she was craving watermelon. At this point, she was only receiving nourishment intravenously or by sipping a little bit of liquid. Her daughter, the same age as my Katie, and her daughter's father worked hard to find watermelon in early spring so that they could freeze the juice and make watermelon popsicles for her. It was quite a feat, and I know her daughter felt so good to be able to do that for her mother.
I remember being so sad when the realization hit me: "She has actually eaten her last meal? She will never chew any food again? No, this is it. She will never enjoy watermelon or any other food again." I was overcome with grief that she was slipping away, having one worldly delight after another taken from her. And now it was food, one of our most basic needs and pleasures. We take food for granted, we grouse about it, critique it, yammer about it, praise it, obsess about it. We focus our social events around food. Some of our dearest family memories revolve around the sharing of food and then the passing of the recipes to our children.
To never taste food again--It seemed such a cruel thing to live through before passing. It was hard to watch her body slowly trickle away when she always generated so much so much life and energy. She was one of the most enthusiastic people I've ever known.
So when I sink my teeth into a triangle of watermelon now, I think of Diane, and for a moment, I re-live the grief of the watermelon moment. But then I remember that the best way I can move on and still cherish her is to live in the moment the way she did, to really appreciate and enjoy things. Don't get me wrong; she made plans like everyone else. But she had a wonderful ability to be in the moment, to be "into" whomever she was conversing with, to be "into" whatever activity we were doing (such as Girls Group day at the lake) or to be "into" whatever we were enjoying, like rich holiday foods or refreshing watermelon.
Since that time, I have never taken a piece of juicy watermelon for granted again. The bigger lessons for me throughout the journey with Diane are too numerous to go into here, but the smaller ones are meaningful, too.
Like how to really appreciate a red, sweet bite of summer. Diane, I love and miss you!