Back in the old days I liked June. It meant summer was officially underway and there were fun adventures planned over the next few months. Sometimes my cousins had gatherings in the West, to which we usually traveled by motorcycle. Occasionally we traveled overseas, other years we moved from south to north, and back to south again. In 2001 Rick motorcycled from Michigan to the Arctic Circle in Canada before reaching Anchorage, and back again – he and his buddy racked up more than 10,000 miles that summer. He loved that trip and always wanted to do it again.
Last year June came on the heels of a special Memorial Day weekend. For the first time in about a year and a half, Rick had his entire family visiting us in Florida – both daughters, grandchildren and son-in-law. Although he was weakened by then, his eyes were alight with love and he smiled widely with pleasure. He was so interested in each family member’s life and thrilled to the promise seen in his grandchildren as they entered adulthood.
It wasn’t easy. Both of us were exhausted. I don’t know how Rick remained so resilient, motivated and focused on surviving his cancer, even as his body shrank and failed him. I was worn by the personal care he required. Sometimes we hugged each other before sleep, making sure each of us knew how much we were loved. What I would give today for turning over in my empty bed to see his face resting on the adjacent pillow, smiling at me.
I have cried every day this week. I remember the joy of that last family weekend and I dread the anniversary of his death later this month. I don’t know what to do with that day. I can’t comprehend how long each of the hours in that 24-hour day will feel. What do I do?
In this past year I have worked to get back to the memories of a strong, robust man filled with life. Now the memories of the havoc both cancer and cure wreaked on him are what I see. His head and heart were there until the end; it was the rest of his body that withered. I know I will get back to remembering better days, but not this month, not June, maybe never in June.