I wrestled out of my slumber this morning by reliving one of the last days I had with Ansley. It never fails to transform me into a jar of marbles that have been spilled across a hardwood floor. The marbles just keep rolling in all directions, some bouncing little hops tip...tap...tip.tap.tiptaptiptap. Others make a spiraling sound as they move across the hard surface. Scattering.
It was the last day that I had a conversation with her. It was also her worst day with cancer. She was in the hospital, had been for over a week. Her liver functions were down the drain and the doctor was trying to sort through options, choose a new treatment, and give reason for hope. The cancer had invaded so much of her body, but nowhere more so than her bones. Her scans lit up like a Christmas tree and the pain in her hips and weakness in her legs had forced her to a wheelchair. Knowing all of this, however, did not prepare me for what was to happen that day. My sister simply rolled over in the hospital bed and her hip snapped. The bone had been eaten away by cancer leaving little strong bone left. It was as completely awful as it sounds.
I was the one who held her, her face inches from mine, her hands strangling mine like a vice grip while they tried to change her soiled linens. Her broken hip being shuffled while she laid there. Her face contorted in pain, eyes wild, while her voice strained through clinched teeth begging God to make it stop. In only a few more hours, they would put her in traction, stabilizing her bones. The increased pain meds looped her into another orbit with only an occasional passing through our world again.
It was during one of these moments that I realized that it was time for me to get home to my own family. I bent toward her face to say goodbye. I gave her a little peck on her forehead; a little stubble from her hair pricked my lips. I said, "I have to go, Ans. I'll see you soon. I love you." She smiled that little wry smile, her lips not giving a hint of the teeth that were behind. She lifted her arm and pulled me back to her. She looked at me, straight to my soul. "I love you, too, Kels. I really do." I responded, "I know. I love you." We gave each other a long, deeply held hug. And with that, I pulled away, turned, and walked out of the room.
I didn't know that would be our last exchange. I didn't know I wouldn't hear her voice again. I didn't know it was my last chance to say what needed to be said. And yet, I said what needed to be said, simply. Oh how grateful I am.