Suffering and Loss

Samain                              Moon of the Winter Solstice

My cousin Leisa, second youngest of all the Keaton cousins (mom’s side of our family), has had an aneurysm found, repaired and then slipped into a coma as a result of a stroke.  Part of her skull has been removed to reduce pressure on the brain from swelling and a second aneurysm has been found, too small to repair right now.

This is eerily reminiscent of Mom’s stroke back in 1964.  Mom was 46, though, younger than Leisa who is in her late 50’s.  Here’s the link:  Mom had two congenital aneurysms, one just below each temple.  In 1964 stroke care and aneurysm repair had no where near the sophistication, armamentarium and clinical experience available today, 47 years later.

Mom might have survived her stroke, might even have had her aneurysms discovered before one burst, with 2011 treatment.  Leisa’s fortunate in that regard, though no one ever wants to test the standard of care.

Even sadder and more distressing my friend Jane’s daughter, Em, 42, died this week of lung cancer.  Never a smoker, a runner, a healthy lifestyle in place she never really had a chance.  She received a diagnosis of stage 4, meaning metastatic, in 2008.  She rallied and did well for a time, but the disease had become too well established and finally overwhelmed her.

Death and suffering are common notes in the symphony of each of our lives, bass notes, struck down in the resonant lower registers of our souls.  No matter how common, how usual or how expected both reverberate, clang around in our depths.

Reading Em’s Caringbridge entries brought me to tears, the anguish of a younger mother’s death; one I know, know too well.  Loss can throw us down a dark well; it did me, one it took several years and a lot of help to crawl up from.

The hope we all can share and that those who will grieve us can, too, is the multiple ways in which our lives continue to ripple out through our children, our family, our extended family and friends, through our work and our works.  As far as I can tell, this legacy is our immortality.

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