Some of you might already know that my best friend Kate is dying of ovarian cancer. I spent two weeks in June with her and her daughters, grandchildren and circle of friends in Helena, Montana. It was rough, but she’s got a strong faith and a cheerful spirit. It was good to swap stories and escape the hospital a few times like we were Thelma and Louise. It was good to express our friendship and love.
After I left, Kate had a successful procedure so she could possibly go home for a short time. One of her brothers came to visit and they went through old photo albums together. We teased her about making her eat kale smoothies to get her well to which she responded she was pretty sure she had avoided kale this long in her life!
Her condition seemed like it was on an upswing. I gardened, grumbled about the heat and found respite in writing and the Moyie River.
On July 3, I called Kate to chat. She didn’t answer. I found out she had spiked yet another fever and was not going home. July 4, I scrambled to find a pet sitter because Todd got called back into work for four weeks and I couldn’t leave the GSPs at Elmira Pond without supervision (one dog is special needs and the other has a special propensity for trouble, including feuds with grizzlies).
After securing a doggy-sitter, I then convinced the Hub to drive me 300 miles to Helena on July 5. He dropped me off and then had to drive back to be home to go to work the next day. I’m grateful he did. I arrived in time.
Kate’s liver began to fail early morning July 5. She was feverish when I arrived to her room, but when Molly told her I was there she said my name with wide eyes and a slight smile. It’s gone downhill from there. She’s in a coma and we are waiting for her to pass, staying by her side. I’ve camped out in her room, sleeping on a pull-out.
Her daughters have sat vigil with me (Erin actually was the brave one who stayed with her the first night when she was still in an agitated state, not understanding what was happening). The coma has actually been a blessing, she’s peaceful though we can no longer communicate. We talk to her and hold her hand, tell her we love her and share memories.
So many have been gracious. I’ve been well-fed and the oncology nurses bring me water, tea and blankets. My emotions have felt leaden. Yesterday, I lost the ability to cry which unsettled me. Every task was excruciating, as if my brain were frozen. If my comments on stories seemed off, that is why.
Carrot Ranch, and those who join me here in sharing the writer’s journey, are a vital part of my writing. Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenges keep me on a schedule and engaged with creativity, other writers and a sense that I’m “doing something.”
That “doing something” is important to my personal motivation. No one holds us writers accountable to our dreams and goals. We write it, publish it, or we don’t. Carrot Ranch is not only a friendly place to practice craft but also a place to speak out loud our intentions. We learn from one another and keep motivated to write.
I’ve never allowed myself a break at Carrot Ranch. I’ve actually worked through many difficulties and multiple deadlines, believing that it was a symbol of my commitment. I can’t tell you how hard it is to take a break. But I simply can’t do this with my friend’s dying. It is any day, the doctor says, so every day, here I sit, listening to her rattling breath knowing it’s her because the wrist band reads her name.
So, a break it is. I will be back in full swing, because I will need the outlet and connection when I return to Elmira Pond. I’ve come to realize that writers are among the last deep communicators of this ever-increasing digitized and quickie-text world. While families are glued to personal screens and couples text on dates, writers have taken to the world wide web to keep the arts of conversation, critical thinking and literature alive.
I will return to that, to this challenge and those who write here. Thank you for sharing the writer’s journey that often reflects the journey of life. And death.
Kate, my sister of the heart, my muddy buddy, fare thee well. Go in peace.