This beautifully written piece sheds light on the struggles that caregivers on the cancer journey face after losing their loved one. Caregivers are critical sources of support throughout someone’s cancer journey, but their true strength shines through with how they continue to live life after the journey is done. As Chris so eloquently puts its, “If there is one thing this awful disease can’t conquer, it’s you. Like ripples on a pond, what affects one of us, affects us all.”
By Chris Erskine
She used to buy me eggnog; I never had to ask. It’d show up in the fridge this time of year, I’d drink about half, and in mid-January she’d finally shrug and throw the rest away.
In a hundred thousand ways like that, we will miss her.
My wife was as lovely as a jar of honey. We would be together almost 40 years: four kids, seven dogs, hamsters, cats, dozens of school carnival fish …
The house was always too small, socks everywhere. She seemed self-conscious about it, in a suburb full of showplaces. She’d have been proud of it this past week though — bursting with friends and family, glowing with candlelight. A cozy place. Smelled of coffee and cornbread. And socks.
Posh made it a home, and now she’s gone. On Nov. 30, the cancer finally stole her.
It was back and forth for a while, her life extended by the rock star oncologist she grew to love probably more than she loved me. Lynda Roman is her name, and for a while together they kicked cancer’s ass.
There were months when it looked as though the cancer might even back down. Cancer may be the most insidious force in nature … the worst word we’ll ever know. It defies medicine, poisons, ionizing radiation, love, hate, anger, courage and the efforts of her amazing caregivers: Kathy, Randi, Lori and so many others.
For a while they stayed ahead of it, till the endometrial cancer finally won. She fought it valiantly, despite losing her mom in February, a son in March.
Apparently, anguish plays favorites. Damn this past year and the too-easy explanations.
So sew the curtains shut, kill the lights. Mourn.
That’s our first inclination, but like many first inclinations, it would be wrong. Better that we turn our faces to the sun and feel Posh and Christopher in its warming rays.
Better that we post her photos, fix her favorite baked macaroni and that famed chicken chili I once told you about, the one I initially scoffed at and grew to love.
Sort of like she did with me, I suppose.
Posh was always a little too good for me. I know this because she used to tell me: “I’m too good for you, I really am.”
Yeah, well … no kidding.
Things weren’t always great. We could argue for three weeks about the color of a $10 bathroom rug. If I rooted for the Cubs, she rooted for the Cardinals. It was a contentious little relationship. No wonder it lasted only 40 years.
Thing is, we shared a remarkable fertility. We could make a baby with just a glance. These glances defied birth control and every law of science. She was 44 when she had her last child.
Her given name was Catherine. I called her “Posh” in this column and “sir” in real life. As in, “Yessir, I’ll replace that light bulb,” or “Yessir, I’d like some French onion soup.”
I was the joker, because that’s the only way I had to win over this golden girl so many years ago — with flowers and quips, wry asides, Irish pluck. I was the joker, because it’s built into my immune system.
That can grow old, I guess, and I think she would’ve preferred a life with someone more like her, a guy with money and no-nonsense Italian moxie.
So, for a while, the kids kept us together. Then, oddly enough, the cancer brought us closer. In her last weeks, we’d hold hands in bed while she stirred uncomfortably all night.
Now, as they say, life goes on. But does it ever?
The girls and I will clean some closets. The little guy and I will try to find our footing without the woman who worried over our every meal.
Right now, I can cook maybe three things. And last year, the little guy took a class.
I give us two weeks.
Yet it’s not our stomachs that pain us. It’s the quiet in the house, the hollowness, the echoes of her voice.
Indeed, the little guy and I are like empty-nesters. We miss how she’d splash her car keys on the counter when she arrived home, the way she’d rattle the drawers looking for just the right serving spoon.
Yeah, we miss you, baby. In those hundred thousand little ways.
We now march on boldly through an awful fog, searching for the beacon of light that used to guide us, the angel atop our family tree.
One step at a time we’ll go on, because we owe that to each other, and to my son’s two bright and beautiful sisters, and their sturdy boyfriends, who have stayed so strong for us all.
In addition to that, we have you.
If there is one thing this awful disease can’t conquer, it’s you. Like ripples on a pond, what affects one of us, affects us all.
Please don’t come at us with grieving eyes. Come at us with your hugs and your casseroles, your stories and your smiles.
Because even on the darkest days, Posh managed that sly Mona Lisa smile.
And so will we.
So long, dear girl.