So I decided, finally. I’m taking a leave from work. My last day will be February 20th and I can take up to six months off. I resisted for the longest time — all through radiation to about halfway through the third round of chemo. It wasn’t winter, after all, that was beating me up. It was the chemo. Sometimes I’d come home from work and go to bed and not get up until it was time to go back to work the next day.
This is not typical of me.
I’m in between rounds now, and I’m still a bit tired and cold-ish. Plus my teeth hurt. Also, apparently, a symptom of chemo. I tell you what, the treatment is more troublesome than the tumour. Which is a nicely alliterative sentence, isn’t it? I asked the oncology nurse practitioner for a letter and she sent one right away. When I went to talk to my supervisors they were very kind — “anything you need, Erin. You’re not asking for a leave, you’re telling us. you’ll have a job when you’re ready, just give us two weeks notice and we’ll be ready for you.” I didn’t know how wound up I’d been until I felt the relief wash over me.
One of our residents left us last week. He died — we don’t know how — and his body was found near where he worked. I get to plan my leaving, but he just — vanished. He left us with so many great stories, and we can hear his music and his laughter as we tell them. We’re all very sad. and hopping mad, too. He was doing so well! We loved him so much — his friends with whom he cooked and danced and who teased him and with whom he laughed ’till they nearly peed.
Since he died, I’ve had the chance to talk to lots of people about him. EVERYONE said, “He checked on me when I first came, and he knew my name right away”. Many people remember his music, and he did little things for everyone that we didn’t know about until now — the checking in, the extra smiles, the little notes on the door, the ‘inside jokes’ with so many people here. When I had an office next to the family lounge (the one with the piano), I’d hear him playing every evening. It was so wonderful. I never went over there to thank him.
You never know. You never know how much influence you have. You never know when it’ll be the last time. It’s cliche to say, “Make the most of it. Tell your loved ones that you love them”. Cliches get to be that way for a reason. It’s not easy to get to be one. Something has to happen, a cause and an effect, over and over before it gets to the eye-rolling phase. “Oh jeez, sure. I loveyouiloveyouiloveyou — it becomes meaningless!” Unless it means something. Take the time. I have to remember, I have to be patient (it’s not my best thing, patience).
That’s something Bo gave me — his life was big and troubled; loving and patient and musical. He attended to people who were new, and scared, and hard to reach. It was easy to tell him he was beautiful and lovable — most of the time. Not so easy to tell that to others. So that’s something he did that I can do — say, somehow, “I love you”, to people who are not so lovable, too. Because there has to be more to go around, We can keep the love we have for our dead going, by telling the stories, and pouring on the sunshine, and telling the troublesome that they are lovable too. We’re having a memorial for him, for Bo, on Thursday (two days hence). I’m glad we can do that together. This grief business is really hard all alone. We have each other. And we have the leavings of the lives we touched; who touched us too.
Okay. time to go to work. it’s snowing like crazy! Big fat white flakes of soft cold beauty. Love it. Don’t love driving in it, though, so I’ll give myself a good head start. I have 2.5 weeks of work left. Will make the most of it.