In June, 1992, I started my new life, free to be whatever I chose, free from the stresses of PSU, and ready for a big change. How big a change, I would come to realize, I would never have anticipated or asked for.
Goethe once remarked that “the person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.” My talents, as I understood them at that point in my life, were in teaching and writing. Having experienced a miracle of healing, I wanted to share the experience—in the words of the Course, “I am here only to be truly helpful.” I set out to teach, and to write. The big dreams expanded to include publishing. That is, establishing a small publishing house of my own. I would publish, first, my own book, then my mother’s book, Experiencing Guidance, then other books related to healing and spiritual life. A third book waited in the wings—the autobiography of a famous healer in Finland. Part of the fun of being a publisher would be to find the books that, in my judgment, could be truly helpful to those who sought healing. I was off to a fast start.
We still lived in our little blue rented house in Multnomah Village. I turned the upstairs into an office, and finished writing my book, The Five Stages of Death and Dying Getting Well. In my initial discussions with publishers, it had become clear that if they published my book, they would edit as they saw fit, and they would own the copyright. They would have the right to market or not market the book as they saw fit. I knew I had a readymade market in the Course community, and I knew the book would sell at Course-related conferences, bookstores and Centers around the country.
So I became a publisher. I established a company called LifeTime Publishing, got bids for printing 1000 copies, and selected a printer in Mississippi. An artist friend in the PSU Art Department designed my cover. I used my Mac computer to format and lay out the pages and the cover, back cover and spine. I learned as I went along, asking for advice from professional editors and book marketing specialists. I learned how to get a copyright and an ISBN number. I secured representation with the three major book wholesalers, the only way bookstores would order books in those days. Finally, in August, 1992, I shipped the completed manuscript to the printer, who promised delivery by the first of September, two weeks away.
I was a publisher! And soon to be a published author!
I also began facilitating a Course in Miracles study group in my home as well as continuing to lead similar groups at Mom’s Center. A few days after the manuscript had been shipped to Mississippi, my group met for their usual weekly study. I was exhilarated by the completion of such a major step in my new life, and we read one of my favorite passages:
“Once you accept His Plan as the one function that you would fulfill, there will be nothing else the Holy Spirit will not arrange for you without your effort.
He will go before you making straight your path, and leaving in your way no stones to trip on, and no obstacles to bar your way. Nothing you need will be denied you. Not one seeming difﬁculty but will melt away before you reach it. You need take thought for nothing, careless of everything except the only purpose that you would fulﬁll. As that was given you, so will its fulﬁllment be. God’s guarantee will hold against all obstacles, for it rests on certainty and not contingency. It rests on YOU. And what can be more certain than a Son of God?
Of course, I changed “Son of God” to “Child of God.” I was exhilarated to have completed a major step in what I saw as fulfillment of my purpose. My group celebrated with me.
That afternoon, I had turned off the ringer on the phone, and thus missed the panicky call.
After the group was over, I picked up the phone, dialed the voice mail code to check for messages and heard this: “You’ve got to come to the hospital, OHSU, room 325,” Lee’s wife Kristy gasped. She broke down into sobs. “I can’t do this. Lee just had a biopsy. He has lung cancer. I can’t do this.” End of message.
* * *
The OHSU room where Jack’s son recovered from his biopsy was large and stark, and smelled of mildew and bleach. The only furniture was a single hospital bed in the middle of the room, and one chair. Kristy, her face red and puffy from crying, slumped in the chair. Lee lay with the sheet folded neatly over his chest, his blonde hair and red beard framing a face pale beneath his summer tan. This man, who had summited Mt. Hood alone in spite of his fear of heights, the rock climber who climbed frozen waterfalls, the high school wrestler who went to State twice, the golf champion who went to State three times, who faced every challenge with strength and determination to win, had been flattened. Jack held my hand so tight my wedding ring cut into my finger. I felt sick, and no doubt Jack did, too. We were all in shock.
The backache Jack’s son had nursed along for several months turned out to be bone cancer, metastasized to his lungs.
Lee and Kristy had four children. Her son, 12 years old from a previous marriage, and little girls ages one, three, and five. Lee was 36 years old. Kristy was shattered by the prospect of losing her husband and the father of her children, and was already beyond being able to cope, or make decisions. She collapsed onto the bed and sobbed, her hair a blonde curly puddle on the bedclothes. Lee’s eyes begged us for solace, for reassurance, for help with Kristy. We couldn’t collapse.
* * *
For years Lee had lived with a fear of lung disease, since his mother and grandfather and a cousin had died young of a genetic lung disease. Every year he had a chest X-ray. A year earlier, Jack had asked him why.
“You’re only in your thirties,” Jack said. “Why on earth would you have a chest X-ray every year? Don’t you get enough exposure to radiation every day in the lab?” Lee worked as a researcher at OHSU, while finishing his PhD in genetics research.
“Dad,” Lee said. “I’m not as concerned about radiation—and I have no choice, it’s my job—as I am my genetics. You know I’m at risk. What Mom had…and her Dad…and…”
“But…having a gene doesn’t mean you necessarily will develop the condition. Anyway, you couldn’t have more than a 50-50 chance of even having that gene. You got half your genes, from me, you know.”
Lee smiled. He believed in the certainty of genes. “Yeah, that must be where I got my genius.” He was brilliant, already sought after by genetics labs around the country. When he graduated, he could be selective about choosing the best offer and the best location to continue his work.
Jack finally shook his head, sighed, and gave up the discussion. He couldn’t say to his son what he said to me later, in a softly anguished tone. “He so believes he’ll die of a lung disease, he’s setting himself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
I couldn’t disagree. I had researched and written about the phenomenon of self-fulfilling prophecy in the book I had just shipped to the printer. Robert K. Merton defined it this way:
“The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behaviour which makes the original false conception come ‘true’. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.” From Social Theory and Social Structure
* * *
For the first three months after Lee’s diagnosis, I sat on the couch all day every day, depressed, meditating, thinking, praying. While I sat, I knitted a kilim-patterned (of Turkish origin) jacket for Jack. Each strand was made up of five or six finespun filaments of silk or wool or linen, replacing one or more filaments with another shade every few inches. As I concentrated on the complicated pattern, I felt my plans for my life evaporate, saw my big dreams grind to a halt like an ocean liner preparing to change direction, slowly beginning to creak around into a 90 degree turn. Inside, everything I “knew for sure” was being unraveled, without my conscious participation.
I didn’t answer the phone unless it was Lee or his family, didn’t go anywhere. My only contact outside the family was my Course group, which gave me weekly encouragement and support, reminding me of this line from the Course:
“What could you not accept if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, were gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good?”
It was hard to see how Lee’s illness could be happening for any good purpose at all. There were parts of the Course, like this one, that I questioned, unable to make the words relate to this new experience.
I sat with my knitting, while my Higher Self explained:
The yarn of your life is being reknitted into a new plan, and you are being downloaded with the energy and commitment and toughness you will need to do what will be necessary.
I knew this was just the beginning. The prospect of being widowed with small children had completely undone Kristy. She would need us. The kids would need us.
Lee was a scientist, and an atheist, with no belief in an afterlife. We had many times discussed his and my own reading of philosophers and mystics, but for him it always came down to this: God is a fantasy we have invented so we’ll be less scared of the truth. We’re going to die, and that will be the end of our existence. He knew about my healing, and knew I had completed writing a book about my experience. He was admiring, curious, and accepting of my approach.
But my approach wasn’t for him. When twenty boxes of glossy, published books were delivered to my doorstep the day after Labor Day, Lee picked up a book, admired it, flipped through the pages a few times, and put the book back in the box.
“I wish I had what you had, that faith…but I just don’t. I’ve studied, I’ve explored, I’ve tried to believe, but I can’t go there. I’m not going to have a miracle.”
“Lee, I don’t want to interfere with your own beliefs in any way,” I said, “but…would it be okay with you if Jack and I believed you could get well?” Jack had already begun the kind of steadfast, determined focus on healing that had shored me up through my entire illness.
Lee’s face, lately lined with worry, lit up for a moment. “Not only okay, but I’d appreciate it.” He shrugged. “Who knows what could happen?”
Yes, who knows? Could a person be healed by the faith of others, if he doesn’t share that faith? I had no idea, and nothing in the Course assured me of that possibility. Yet, I was willing to believe, and to hold fast to the possibility of healing.
* * *
Lee accepted his fate with stoic determination, opting for six rounds of Cisplatin, a grueling chemotherapy requiring a day or two of hospitalization every few weeks. Lee’s best friend stayed with him at the hospital, and Kristy visited when she was up to it. She was coping as best she could, recruiting the help of teams of friends who made daily schedules and signed up to do child care, meals, laundry, housecleaning, even take Kristy to a movie or fashion show or ball game, or the kids to the zoo. We didn’t sign up for scheduled duties. We realized early on that if we took responsibility for too much of Kristy’s life, we would enable her to avoid developing the strength and stamina she would need, now and in the future, to raise her family. We were in for the long haul—their friends were in a different position. They could and usually did drop off the schedule, to be replaced by other willing and eager helpers.
Between chemo treatments Lee was up and about, often taking the little girls with him to work, and regularly bringing them to our house in the evening for supper and games. Kristy had switched to an obstetrics swing shift for awhile.
We heard the familiar scuffle on the front porch, Lee dragging a diaper bag, blankets, toys, jackets, checker board and picture books, carrying one-year old Birgitta, waiting for three-year old Kirsta and five-year old Keelie to wrestle the door open for him. They poured into the living room, chattering, dancing tiny golden-haired girls, waving pictures they had colored for the refrigerator door. Lee followed, eased the baby to the floor, dropped the paraphernalia, adjusted his head rag back around his ears.
He eased himself down onto the couch and let his head drop back in exhaustion, breathing too hard, pale, bald, sixty pounds under his high school wrestling weight, Nick Nolte with lung cancer.
“We’ve been to dim sum!” Keelie shouted, scrambling onto Lee’s lap. “And Frank went too. We ate with chopsticks!” She nestled into the curve of his arm. I sat down next to Lee. Kirsta climbed onto my lap with her blanket and popped two middle fingers into her mouth.
Jack waited for his son’s breathing to become quiet. “You went out for Chinese?” he said.
“Yes,” Lee said. “Frank and I picked them up at the sitter’s and we went for dim sum. We had a good time.” Kirsta moved her head over against her Daddy’s shoulder. Birgitta stood holding onto his legs with one arm, her Raggedy Ann doll in the other arm.
Jack stood up and lifted Birgitta. “Come and sit on Grandpa’s lap, Gita,” he said.
“No. Daddy hold me,” Birgitta said. She squirmed loose and threw herself on Lee’s legs. Kirsta wiggled closer, tucking one arm into his armpit.
“They’re all right,” Lee said, his head still flopped onto the back of the couch. “Just let me breathe for a minute, and I’ll be fine.”
“Did Frank go on home?” I asked. Frank was his best friend at work, the friend who sat with him during chemo treatments or hospital visits.
“Yeah, he dropped me here and went home,” Lee said. “I guess you guys will have to take us home after while. Or Kristy could pick us up when she gets off at eleven.”
He wasn’t usually hungry, so supper could be simple, often the kids’ favorite: tomato tofu soup. Or Jack would grill a steak the way Lee liked it, bake a potato, and cut the steak into small bites to make it easier for him to eat. We often helped him bathe the girls and get them into their pajamas before he took them home.
Christmas came, and everyone—my kids, Jack’s kids, and their families—arrived at our small house to celebrate. The tree, the brunch, the presents, the games, the turkey dinner, all took on a special poignancy, as if each of us were silently taking mental snapshots and tucking them away. Forever. Lee, his head kerchiefed in a red bandanna, was his usual witty, sardonic self, the life of the party. He took frequent breaks to sit on the couch, close his eyes, and breathe, his head back.
Kirsta and Keelie celebrated their fourth and sixth birthdays, both close to Christmas, with their parents and grandparents at a pizza place.
One afternoon in late winter Lee came over by himself. The three of us stood in the kitchen, drank coffee and talked about how he was feeling, now that treatment had ended. When Jack went out to his shop to check on a project he was working on, Lee put down his cup and turned to me.
“I have a big favor to ask.”
“Anything. What is it?” I said.
“I want you and Dad to raise my children.”
I was frozen, shocked, and unable to process the question.
“Raise your children? What…you mean, adopt them? Why would you ask such a thing?”
“Because if I die, you know Kristy won’t be able to raise them on her own. You and Dad could give them a stable home.”
In my mind the answer shouted itself, and came out my mouth, against my usual accommodating nature.
“No! First of all, we don’t know that you’re dying, and second, I have complete confidence Kristy will rise to the challenge and be a great mother. She’s overwhelmed right now.”
I turned away and refilled my coffee cup, rattling the glass carafe back onto the warmer, so I could take a moment to breathe, and calm down.
“But, Lee, you know we’ll have Kristy’s back, that we’ll help as much as we’re able, no matter what happens,” I said. “Your kids will be all right. They have your genes, you know.”
Lee smiled, and his shoulders relaxed. Apparently, this was an answer he could accept.
After Lee left, I told Jack of our conversation, and asked him what his answer would have been.
“Are you kidding? Why do you think he waited until I was out of the house before he asked you? He knew my answer would be No. I’ve raised my kids, I’m 62 years old, and I’m not raising another batch.”
“But we’ll help,” I said.
“Well, sure, of course we will. But they have a mother. And they still have a father.”
* * *
Lee and I had one of our occasional deep talks about sickness, death and dying, and choices. I told him about research that suggested a serious diagnosis that triggers some major life changes can improve a person’s outlook.
“Have you thought of some ways you could change your life, things you’ve wanted to do, or do differently, or not do, or give up, or adopt, or abandon?”
He sat with his hands clasped between his knees, looking down at the floor.
“It’s too late,” he told me, meaning it was too late, for many reasons, to change his life in significant ways.
“It’s too late” was a phrase that I would hear again, from other beloveds who developed cancer. They were not talking about their disease, but about their lives. Life-threatening illness often triggers a review of one’s life, of choices made and not made, and can lead to major reprioritization of the values that have driven their choices. The brave ones may change their religion or spiritual path, change or leave their career, and tackle their relationships. Perhaps they invest themselves more deeply in a troubled relationship, or spend more time with their children, or clean up old grievances with siblings, parents, friends, or grown children.
“It’s never too late,” I said. “You’ve considered your choices and rejected most of them. Maybe you should reconsider, take another look at what might be possible.”
He raised his head. His eyes were bleak, but resolute. “No. It’s too late.”
* * *
Six weeks before Lee’s death, Jack and I kept a commitment we had made for a five-day study tour of the Big Island’s sacred places, led by a group of native Hawaiians. The trip was a one-time event, sponsored by the Noetic Sciences Institute for a small group of participants.
We talked about the trip.
“Should we cancel?” I asked Jack.
“Do you think we should?” he responded. “I don’t.”
“But what if…while we’re gone…he gets worse?” The possibility that he could even die while we were in Hawaii turned me cold.
“He may. But right now, he’s stable, and ambulatory. He still goes to work some days. His doctor says he has some time, weeks, maybe months.”
“So you’ve given up thinking he can get well?” I asked.
“I’m still holding out for a miracle, but I’m realistic about the prospects.”
I listened to my Inner Voice, then passed it on. “Jack. I think you need a break, a chance to get away from all of this for a few days, gather your strength. We both need that, so we can face whatever lies ahead. If we cancel the trip, maybe we could just drive down the coast for a few days, stay close.”
He thought about it for a few minutes, then spoke with resolve. “We’re going. Lee will be okay, I’m sure of that. And the trip’s already paid for, with no refund.”
“Not that that matters,” I added.
“Right. But what does matter is that our lives have to go on. We’re going.”
Lee was in full agreement. “I’ll be fine,” he said. “Can I use your car while you’re gone?”
* * *
The compassionate Hawaiians who guided our group on the trip became a grounding point for both of us. During the nightly circle debriefs to talk about our experiences in the sacred sites, Jack was finally able to talk about his own grief and pain. These loving strangers had quickly become like brothers and sisters to us as we rappelled down cliffs to hidden coves, or jumped barbed wire fences hung with “No Trespassing” signs and crossed a sugar cane field to visit another ancient heiau, or temple. Our last stop was the descent into the Haleakala Crater, on Maui. We gathered in the forest near the crater before the descent. As we stood in a circle we were first led by the Native leader in a ritual, then said our private prayers. A branch broke off a tree above us and landed on Jack’s feet. He put it in his backpack to carry and bring home, and it became, somehow, a symbol of hope for us. Jack continued to have faith Lee would have a miracle, at the same time as he grieved about his only son’s decline. My own faith, at times, sagged. I was beginning to wonder if Lee wanted to get well. But hope? Hope was always warranted. We had hopes for Lee’s family, for his wife and children, and for our ability to help them.
Lee met us at the airport, driving our car. He carried an oxygen tank everywhere now, with cannulas in his nostrils, but insisted on driving us home and hearing all about the trip.
* * *
A month later, on Friday, May 14, Lee was taken by ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital, the sixth floor. The cancer floor. While we waited for his oncologist, the grim-faced circle of family and close friends around Lee’s bed was utterly silent; Lee, the center of attention, breathed with an oxygen mask. The silence became oppressive. I remembered a doctor holding my foot while he talked to me in the hospital, some years earlier, and how comforting was that touch. I had to do something, and touch was easier than words. Lee’s sock feet stuck out at the foot of the bed, so I began to hold and massage them. He immediately sat up straighter, smiled and said, “Yes! More!” It broke the silence, and gave us all a chance to laugh. From then on, people understood that Lee would always be happy to have a foot massage, and he got plenty of them.
When the oncologist finally arrived to meet with the family, he told us Lee would not be leaving the hospital this time. He asked about a Do Not Resuscitate order, and we all turned to Lee to make the decision. He thought about it for a few minutes. The doctor prompted him, “If you stop breathing, do you want to be resuscitated?” To our surprise, he nodded his head, Yes. He was not through yet.
We were offered round-the-clock use of the family suite. Lee’s sister Marion and her family arrived on Saturday, and joined us at the hospital for what turned out to be a one-week vigil.
Jack, Marion, her husband Larry and I took turns being with Lee around the clock, at his request. He was on a morphine pump, and he wanted to be sure nobody tried to turn it up as a merciful gesture. “I know nurses and doctors do it all the time,” he said, “but I’m not ready yet. I have unfinished business I have to take care of. Keep an eye on that pump for me.”
In the family suite, we showered, slept, and cried. Marion’s daughter, Lael, was three years old and often gave us a welcome break from the grief and loss we shared. Marion and Larry had no difficulty with their daughter seeing the process of Lee’s dying, and seeing our grief. They didn’t protect her from reality, and she handled it with composure.
“Why is everyone crying all the time?” Lael asked in her innocent, chirpy voice.
Marion cleared her throat, then answered. “Because your Uncle Lee is going to die, and we’ll miss him.”
“But why would we miss him?”
“Because he won’t be here anymore. We’ll never see him again.”
“Oh,” Lael said, turning serious. Then, “Really we won’t?”
She processed this information and arrived at some conclusion that made sense to her, then popped her head into Lee’s room to check on him, saw that he was still there, and went back to her coloring book.
Lee’s children, at his request, didn’t visit. “They’re too young to see me like this,” he said. He had let go.
Lee was the first person, but there would be more, in whom I witnessed the unavoidable necessity of letting go.
In Lee’s process I saw many layers of letting go in dying. First to go is the body’s reliability and appearance. Then hobbies, trips, vacations. Treasures collected over the years, but meaningless now. Eventually, work is no longer possible. Some friends drop away, unable to deal with their friend’s situation and his mortality. Then one’s home, pets, and finally, loved ones. Close friends and family are often last, and the hardest to let go.
A friend recently remarked about the unexpected death of her son, “It’s non-negotiable, you know.” That word, non-negotiable, is the best descriptor I’ve ever heard for the stark finality we felt as we watched our son work his way through to his death. No bargaining allowed, no protest allowed, no entreaties or prayers, just the wheels turning and they won’t be stopped. Unyielding, unalterable, inexorable. A condition that as humans, we find appalling. But Lee faced it with unfailing grace.
Monday night, Lee sat up in bed, thin and kerchiefed but bright-eyed and alert, and sent Jack out for a huge Greek takeout meal. He entertained all of us at his bedside—Marion and her family, Lee’s Uncle Jim and Aunt Chris, and us—with food, ouzo, and retsina. He was in good spirits, telling stories, eating and laughing. Hope bloomed again, but we knew it was a temporary respite.
Tuesday, the Dean of the Graduate School at OHSU personally delivered Lee’s diploma for his PhD in Genetic Sciences, which he had earned but would be unable to pick up at graduation a month hence. The Dean stood at the bedside and made a formal little speech, praising Lee’s academic and research accomplishments, then presented the diploma with a flourish. Lee stared at it for long minutes. Our little family group congratulated him with hugs and kisses, and Jack ran down the street to have it framed.
Visitors streamed in and out of Lee’s room while he still had strength to enjoy them. One annoying little creature, a young woman who had worked with Lee in the genetics lab, had read somewhere that a dying person needs to be given permission to die before he can let go. Every time she visited, at least once a day, she climbed up onto his bed next to him and whispered loudly in his ear, “It’s okay to die, everyone will be fine, you can move on now. You can let go.” Lee, fully conscious and alert, tolerated it with a smile, and kept his usual witty, sardonic comments to himself. He had unfinished business, and he wasn’t ready to go until all his unfinished business was complete.
He had private “unfinished business” visits with his sister, Marion, my daughter, Laurie, and his ex-wife, as well as a few close friends.
Wednesday night, as I sat with him, a visitor peeked in the door and whispered, “Is he awake?” Lee sat up immediately, glad to see her. She was someone with whom he had once had an important relationship that ended badly. He invited her to sit next to him on his bed.
I stood. “I’ll just leave now, and let you have some privacy,” I offered.
“No, no we want you to stay,” they both insisted. Perhaps Lee wanted a witness who could accurately describe the visit, in case it ever became a question for Kristy.
Uncomfortable, I sat back down and read my book, trying not to hear their conversation. This visit was, clearly, “unfinished business,” mostly remembering good times together. After half an hour or so, she kissed his cheek next to the oxygen mask, and they said goodbye.
Thursday, I sat next to Lee’s bed crying silently and looking out the window. It was May 20, a beautiful day with cherry trees in glorious bloom, and Lee was unable to be a part of it. Jack came in, saw my tears, took my hand and pulled me up. “Come on,” he said. He led me to a private sitting area he had found, sat us both down, put his arms around me, and let me cry my heart out, stayed with me for as long as it took. That was an important part of my own letting go of Lee. Jack didn’t cry. He wasn’t yet ready to let his son go.
That night, the night before he died, Lee sat up in bed, looked around with a puzzled expression, and asked Jack, “Who are all these people?”
“There’s no one here but the two of us,” Jack responded.
Lee waved an arm at the apparent, to him, circle of people around his bed. “Dad, introduce me, I don’t recognize these people.”
“I can’t, son, I don’t see them.”
Lee leaned back into the pillows and let his gaze travel slowly from one unseen being to the next, to the next. Then he relaxed with a sigh and a nod of recognition. My theory is that he finally recognized his mother, his grandmother, and his baby sister. Without a belief in an afterlife, he would not have known any of them, at first. And, perhaps he saw angels. Guardian angels. Escorts?
From then on, Lee was at peace, unfinished business almost complete. He rested quietly, opening his blue-sky eyes and smiling from time to time at whomever was sitting with him.
* * *
It soon became clear that peace was not going to be available to me. As they say, when it rains it pours.
Friday morning, my brother Tim called me on the phone in the family suite.
“Judy, I have to talk to you right away.”
“I can’t, Tim, we’re here with Lee, he’s close to death. I really can’t leave.”
“I know, and I’m so sorry, but could you get away for an hour? It’s really important. I could come over there, meet you for coffee at McMenamin’s, it’s just down the street.”
“Let me check.” I went into Lee’s room, and Jack looked up. “Tim wants to meet me for coffee, right away. Says it’s urgent. What do you think?”
“It’ll be okay.” He glanced at Lee, snoring lightly in his oxygen mask and sleeping comfortably. “I’m here,” he said. “I’m not leaving.”
He saw my hesitation. “It’ll be okay,” he repeated. “I’m with him.”
I joined my brother at the pub, and we ordered coffee. We talked about Lee, but I sensed Tim’s uneasy, restless agitation. He tapped his fingers nervously on the table top.
I cupped my hand over his tapping fingers. “What’s wrong, Tim?”
He thrust his left hand across the table. “See that?”
The fingernail on his ring finger was gone, the empty nailbed a soft vulnerable pink.
“God, what happened to your finger?” I said.
“Biopsy,” he said grimly. “It’s melanoma. Stage four. They’re going to cut off my finger next Wednesday. I need you there.”
I stared at him for long minutes, nearly speechless.
“Well, fuck,” I finally said.
“Yeah,” Tim answered. “You’ve always had such a way with words.”
The rains had begun. The monsoon of big change.