A lot can happen in two months. Chickens grow, go to slaughter, and feed our neighbors. Farmer’s Markets end for the season. Turkeys grow (and grow!) and escape on the daily. Hogs are butchered and tucked away into freezers for nourishment all winter. Two lovely sows are purchased to begin our own hog breeding at the farm. The weather is changing, the leaves are falling, and the clouds are rolling in. A long visit to India and Sri Lanka happened, a trip that warrants its own post. But right here, right now…this one’s for Nancy.
Imagine you are hiking up a very tall peak. You huff and puff your way up, admiring the remarkable greenery along the way, feeling the fresh breeze on your face. You approach the top and peek over the ledge, and see a lake way down below. You bend down and pick up a smooth, cool pebble, wind up, and throw the pebble over. The pebble sails over the ledge with ease, and tumbles seemingly in slow motion until finally it breaks the surface of the water with an imperceptible sploosh. The ripple is so small from way up high you can’t make it out with your bare eyes. But you know it’s there, working it’s way out over the surface of the lake. Because of that action, you have changed the history of the lake. The breaking of the surface tension causes flies and bugs to scatter, disrupting a trout’s planned dinner. The ripple spreads and spreads, until it laps at the shore with barely perceptible motion. A small crab scuttles out of the way, and changes the direction it was headed. The pebble sinks to the bottom of the lake, where it slowly settles into the sediment.
Now imagine that each one of us is such a pebble, falling into the lake of time. Who or what it is that threw us over that ledge, be it God, Vishnu, Allah, cosmic stardust, the Powers that Be, or just dumb luck is not for me to say. What is known is that we are all set into motion. We all create a ripple in this small remote “lake” we call Earth, and every action we take affects every creature that comes into contact with our waves. And every one of us must finally settle at the bottom of that lake, where we eventually become a permanent part of the landscape. The ripple will fade, but the effects are permanent.
I am fortunate to have felt the gentle lapping of Nancy’s wave. I have dug my toes into the sand and felt her move my heart with her love. She has affected me profoundly. She has birthed and raised the man I love, a man who is more compassionate, loving, and sensitive than any other I’ve met. She has built a family dynamic with bonds so strong I was worried about breaking into the fold as Andrew and I planned our life together. I needn’t have worried. Nancy accepted me with open arms, words of love, and big hugs. She told me that she had been praying for my existence since the day Andrew was born, and she knew that I was the right woman for him as soon as she met me.
As many of you know, Nancy has been dealing with a cancer diagnosis for eight years. When I left for India in September, she had some good days and some bad, but was coasting along. When I returned home a month later, things had changed. Nancy is no longer able to walk. A new tumor in her spine is pressing on her nerves, causing immobility along with other physical problems. She is having trouble swallowing, and eats very little. Her pain is astronomical–far beyond what most of us can fathom. She is on high doses of pain medication, which causes her to slip in and out of awareness. Her voice is hoarse, so when she does speak you have to bend your ear down to her lips, and making out what she’s saying is difficult. She is having trouble breathing, and now has an oxygen tank for help.
No one knows how much time we have left with Nancy. The pebble is starting to settle, and it’s hard for us to let go. We try to come visit her as much as we can, and whenever we get to the house it is full to the brim with friends and family. The love that surrounds Nancy hangs thick in the air. The other night all of her children surrounded her in her bed, hugging, laughing, and remembering. I was fortunate to be included in this sacred circle, and know this moment will forever be an integral part of my life story.
As Nancy gets ready to depart this world, the rest of us will be left behind. She will be gone. There will be a huge hole in all of our hearts, and we will have to figure out how to fill them. We will stuff those holes full of memories, grasping onto the small details before they slip through the cracks forever. It will be hard, but it is what all people must go through when they lose someone they love. There is small comfort in that; knowing that we all must deal with such a tragedy. There are no free passes for any of us. None of us are special, yet each of us is exceptional.
The effects of Nancy’s life will persist long after she is gone. Those ripples have changed the history of the entire lake, and I’m just happy to stand on the shore with my toes in the water. No one knows how much time there is left, so as long as I can I’ll be standing here quietly, waiting for that wave to caress me just a little more before it finally fades into serenity.