Kelsey and her boyfriend, Evan, were invited to spend some holiday time visiting with his family in Charleston, South Carolina. Evan couldn’t make it due to work commitments so I was pulled off the bench to sub in for him. Kelsey brought me as an early Christmas gift and I was game. We had a lovely visit and lots of holiday sight-seeing too.
I have never been on an actual plantation in the south before and was pretty excited to visit the Boone Hall Plantation. Driving up the Avenue of a Thousand Oaks, draped in Spanish Moss, to the Main House I was awed. I guess I thought it would be like a Newport mansion where opulence is paramount. Instead it was a working farm-house opulently decorated for Christmas. After a house tour, we strolled down Slave St. (I didn’t even know it was okay to say that never mind name an actual street) to wander through the brick and mortar one room slave houses and onto the Cotton Dock where they were busily preparing for a wedding alongside the tidal river. The Gullah culture was still present on the plantation and being curated by native speakers, showing their carefully crafted sweet water grass baskets and sharing their oral history at a slave house now converted into the Gullah theater.
Next we visited Myrtle Beach–it was coooold and then, an evening visit to see the one thousand lights and luminaries at Brookgreen Gardens and the lighting of the Christmas Tree with 135,000 lights. Man, I’d hate to watch Tim untangle those lights after Christmas!
We also had the opportunity to attend a performance of White Christmas at the historic Dock St. theater in Charleston. What struck me most, apart from the historical setting and terrific performances, was that every couple on stage, including the leads, were interracial. I had lost some hope after the recent election, and this gave it back to me, that even here in the low country of the deep south, racism was not in evidence. I loved it.
Coincidentally we had watched Top Chef the night before–this season it is in Charleston and the opening show took place at the Cotton Dock at Boone Plantation. The guest judge was Frank Lee and we met him the next day while wandering down King street in Charleston–he was selling his cook book, SNOB, so of course we had to buy one and get his autograph. I did not know at the time that later that evening we were actually dining at his restaurant SNOB (slightly north of Broad St). Yum!!
We really loved our trip and especially the two young grandchildren who shared it with us. Christmas through a child’s eyes is extra special. (As I have mentioned before, I never name people in my blog without their express permission, so my vagueness is intentional!)
Of course I returned home to a big reality check—I got sick! Always a dilemma for cancer peeps. I felt entirely too sick to drive to my Primary Care doctor in Norwood who would require me to come in because ya know, I have cancer. I decided to chance it and go to Urgent Care praying they wouldn’t blow up my case and ship me to an ER. Fortunately the PA I saw was not too knowledgeable–she asked if I had metastatic cancer now or before–Huh? When she was confused that I had cancer 14 years ago, I knew I had her. I spouted off some statistics, told her I had completed experimental immunotherapy and really, this was just an upper respiratory deal in need of a Z Pack and Codeine. It worked and I was on my way—-to bed for a few miserable days.
Being sick reminds me that I am living on borrowed time. Last week two women I was friendly with on-line died of MBC, both young mothers. One had contacted me because she was starting Pembro last October and had questions–I am one of the few that have actually gone through it. Anyway, 3 infusions later and she died. Not because of Pembro but because that is what MBC does. It blind sides you. Because of this I have a keener sense of my own mortality and try to be more in the present. My knitting teacher told me last week that I emanate gratitude. I liked that.
I often ask people around me to tell me the 5 best things that happened to them on any given day. It works! Opening myself to appreciate the smallest of things and to keep looking for the cracks of light that break through the darkness is how I keep going in the face of death. The Anniversary of my sister’s death passed last week and my Mom died 5 years ago on Christmas day. It’s a lot. I am thankful for Dr. Rachel and all the treatments that are helping me. I know the time will come when the treatments no longer work. Until then, I will live with gratitude. I am most grateful for having lived my life with all of you in it, cheering me and carrying me to the finish line.
Yesterday Lisa and Shannon visited and we exchanged gifts. When Tim came home, I showed them to him. First, I showed him two bracelets from Shannon, the second of which was Alex and Ani, a pretty, pink, scarab-like design, that is called “The Way Home.” He looked at it for few minutes – I wasn’t sure what he was thinking. Then he said, “This is the perfect gift for you. After everything you went through, the ICU, the coma, and the whole time you were out, you were desperately looking for the way home.” Then I showed him a silver Brighton (my favorite) bracelet from Lisa, which said, “Embrace the Journey.” He smiled, then shook his head, because he thought they planned it this way, but they didn’t. “They just took your whole year,” he said, “and wrapped it up in two simple bags. It’s perfect.”
On that note, Melinda Welsh wrote an op-ed in the LA Times about “The Time I Have Left”. It is so beautifully written. I love the following quote: “I understand that my infinitesimally tiny piece in all this is coming to a close. Letting go will be difficult, but death has its own clock. So I will take solace in the idea that, once gone, I may come to occupy a small space in the hearts of the people who loved me most. And perhaps from there, I will be a source of a few simple reminders: Time is limited. Life is miraculous. And we are beautiful.”
Lastly, my song choice is a sad one, I know, about the loss of a child. We really love it and Kelly’s version, which takes it from a duet to a solo piece, universalizes it I think. Living with the unimaginable with grace and gratitude.
Barbara, Tim, Kelsey and Bridget