In June, I was packing to help my mom out while my dad was in the hospital. The situation was grave, and we were warned that we might not see him lucid again if we didn't move really, really fast.
How do you pack for a parent's death bed? Can you fold the tears in with your underwear, tuck some hope in your favorite socks? Can one small suitcase fit all the love and sorrow you need to bring along? What sort of toiletries can make you look normal at a time like this?
In the spring, the children and I watched the BBC's Blue Planet. In one segment, orcas were hunting baby seals. When the orcas had caught one, they'd take it out in deeper water and toss it back and forth. The still-living baby seal would be tossed high in the air, and then batted back to the first orca by another whale. The orcas would continue their play for half an hour or so, until the baby seal was good and dead.
Cancer reminds me a lot of those orcas. It plays with its prey, tossing them up and down, letting them think they might escape, battering them more and more until the end.
My dad is still alive.
One thing I've learned from cancer is that you have to keep living every second you've got. We've had wonderful family moments long after we expected my dad to be gone. Times where he's seemed to have lost his lucidity for good are followed by days of clear sunny weather.
So we go on. One step in front of another. One moment of being tossed in the air, one moment of being deep underwater. Laughter made more precious because of the contrast with the suffering.