Made you laugh, didn't I?
But I'm serious. I buried my heart there today. A little piece of me died last night when my cousin Kari showed me pictures of a bed sore that nearly killed my uncle just before Christmas.
How? It goes like this. Around Thanksgiving, my uncle was retrieving mail or the paper after his wife left for work. He's been on Interferon for months, since a large patch of his scalp was removed last spring with a large patch of melanoma in the skin. Moles and the tissue to the muscle were extracted from his torso, front and back, leading to diagnoses in several kinds of skin cancer all within weeks of one another. He is reduced by the effects of chemo, but still a larger man. He was weak from the medicine. He fell hard and landed in a nursing home for breaking his ankle in three places, but that's not the worst part. He laid on the ice at the end of his driveway for forty-five minutes before a UPS truck driver rescued him. Either the force of his fall, the cold or something else led to a patch of dead tissue on his posterior. Initially, the hospital staff said it was a bruise. Later, the nursing home staff recognized dead tissue. It took a couple of weeks, but proved itself gangrenous. Part of it was removed and finally, after nearly dying of sepsis just before Christmas, a full 10" x 10" x 3" deep section of his rear end was cut out. In pictures, his tailbone is showing, it is that deep.
I've written him, but until this morning, I hadn't seen him since a family reunion this summer, just after he began chemo and he was already weakened and sick. This morning, he had something of an appetite because he's off the interferon to let the wound heal. Still, he's smaller than I ever remember him being. Cancer and chemo are wicked like this. I know the saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," but chemo is no friend. It's the only barbarism we have to defeat a vicious enemy. To heal from this wound, the nursing home staff and hospital recommend he stay away from the chemo. Meanwhile, he's worried about skin spots that have appeared recently. Kari tells me he'll talk to the oncologist later this week.
One year ago, I started this blog with a reflection on my husband's hospitalization with heart attack-like symptoms. Last week, Fr. Joel had a facial laceration worth 13 stitches-- just a little football injury. Nothing compared to my uncle's circumstance. If I curled up one year ago around the gasping body of my husband, I now curl up in a fetal position, at the foot of the Cross for my Uncle Dave. He is a man of faith. He has dreamed vividly in recent weeks, perhaps it's the painkillers, or it is visionary. He dreamed of ascending steps from a kind of dark basement towards a light, but being ordered back before nearly the top. It's not his time, it seems, so he ministers to his nurses. He is aware he nearly died and a weight of mortality tinges his talk like I've never seen. He was a spector of his father, my grandfather. He was always one to instigate a laugh, jokes first, then tickling. My grandfather loved to make other's laugh too. He is serious, as a heart attack, about faith in God, in the face of all we suffer and celebrate. He has three children. One has blessed his 'quiver' with two grandchildren. There may be more some day.
Please, remember my Uncle Dave in your prayers. I'm not a superstitious person, and even if I were 11 is not a superstitious number. But this past year was a rough one for many people I know and love. Some were diagnosis with serious illness, others lost unborn children, others were battling demons foisted upon them by evil in this world, others survived natural calamities.If you think of it, here is a short short list of names I whisper each morning. Please consider adding them to your list:
"Remember us, Oh Lord, In your Kingdom."