Today is, in fact, a pitch-perfect warm day of a startling blue sky and movie-quality clouds. Everything seemed brighter: flowers popped their various rainbows and everywhere she looks, it is lovely.
But the Matron's mind is on food:
Mashed potatoes with real cream and half a stick of butter
Chocolate pudding and Popsicles
Berry scones from the Finnish Bakery
Cake: vanilla, chocolate, marble from a box with canned frosting. Add sprinkles
Egg salad sandwiches on white bread (Wonder is best)
These were key players in the Matronly menu for her dear friend and neighbor, Annie, who died Sunday night from cervical cancer. Let her tell you, folks, there is no such thing as pain 'management.'
Pain permeates. It is not physical, limited, contrite or controllable. For the body, one must anticipate and plan, 'get ahead' of pain's onset. This means the needles, the pills, the timing, the body's reception must all be in synch. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it does not. Psychic pain is another thing altogether. Here pain has the power of expanse for it can reach beyond the sufferer's body to everyone bearing witness, everyone who loves. Yes, indeed, pain--that small plain word -- defies neat capture, in prose or in life. Never again will the Matron stand for a second -- not a second -- the quick easy 'out' of assuming pain can be managed.
In all its manifestations, public and private, psychic and physical, pain has indeed permeated the Matronly world. She is acutely aware, these past three days, of Reality, writ large, and understands that this moment too -- like all the moments and lives before her -- will fade into something someone only remembers. This is both alarming and strangely helpful, understanding her current condition will some day be memory. She is of firm belief that feeling this way -- really, really bad -- is a now or sometime-later-when-you-least-expect-it sort of commandment. Now seems better.
The world lost not only an artist (the real deal) but the very best kind of person for whom there is no such thing as small talk, no gracious dribbling or waste. No. Meet Annie and in five minutes you would be talking like teenagers pondering the meaning of life or characters on a great adventure in a movie: spirit, heart, God or not god, love, politics, art, friendship, sex, bad behavior and its merits/drawbacks. Whatever. She went for the jugular, each and every time. This firm but joyful grasp on what really matters (who cares about how the job is, people!) is what made the Matron love her so. Other people have their reasons, but for the Matron, Annie's astounding ability to live every moment rooted in the big stuff (death, love, meaning of life) made her miraculous and inspirational. That woman mowed the lawn with God on her shoulder. You could see it.
I promise to cry in public, demand real cream in my potatoes, look through life's lens for the best possible picture, remember to see what's over my left shoulder if my mind is only on my right, open my heart as much as is possible, visit strange places and talk even when I'm crying even if it's in the grocery store or this particular coffee shop as I am now. I promise to see the edges of color and lines in my life, and treasure them as singular beauties. I promise to be true to myself. I will not only accept reality but roll around in it with pleasure.
I'll forgive myself when I fail at every single of the above promises, as I already am --hiding my tears in the coffee shop and noting the time (pick up Merrick!) and worrying about whether the dogs got their run. Lucky me! Every few minutes I will break a vow (open heart always?!) and then -- I will get to remember you, forgiving me always and happy with every single flaw in my seams.
Can I fold laundry and walk the dog with the world radiating through me? Maybe if I remember you.
Good-bye, my darling.
Scarlett Ann Marsden 2009