28 women finding ways to squeeze the day, every day, while living with cancer and it’s after effects.
Every year we converge on this little retreat center in the woods, on the edge of the canal.
Every year we laugh, we cry, we eat, drink, and dance,
We challenge each other, we hold each other up.
And even more importantly, we rest, and we are cared for.
Every year I come back home feeling two inches taller.
P.S. This year, I brought a spare camera and handed it over to the group, asking them to take pictures as well. I’m so glad I did. I came home with pictures that were complete surprises to me, and this year, I was so engaged in just being present that I hardly took any pictures at all. Thanks so much to my friends for picking up the slack.
P.P.S. The link in the first line will take you to the poem I read at the retreat. It resonated so profoundly with so many of us, and I received many requests for copies. (I’m not affiliated with the writer of the poem, but when you write stuff this good, it deserves a link.)
She would have appreciated the fact that she died at 4:20 on April Fools Day. That was our Meesh: If you can’t change the inevitable, then you might as well find a way to have fun with it.
We can also thank her for the fact that for a couple hours at her memorial service, that church housed more boob jobs than a porn convention. That would be us, her sisters in this breast cancer sorority none of us wanted to join; a sorority from which we all gain so much strength and comfort, and even joy.
Most of the time, we don’t pay attention to the way people look at us when we are out together: the surprise when they find out we all have breast cancer, followed by the sad eyes when they realize we are all going to die. We look so normal. We’re smiling, and laughing. How can we be laughing?
The truth is that we are all going to die. So are you. Some of us just happen to be on an accelerated schedule. That’s where Michele’s wisdom helped me the most. Michele had a way of telling her story so that it didn’t terrify the newly diagnosed girls. She would spin the story each time, so it came out with a message, a little moral or lesson to tie up the anecdote like the “you see, Timmy” at the end of each episode of Lassie. She didn’t preach, she just showed us how to call bullshit on bullshit, how to advocate for yourself, how to pick up and move on, and how to focus on what you can change, and how to spend your time and energy on what really matters.
During the service, the Pastor shared Michele’s words. I didn’t write them down as he was speaking, so I must paraphrase, but they really stuck with me:
“Don’t wast your time on people who suck your soul out of you. Life is too short. Invest your life in what matters, because in the end, what doesn’t matter… doesn’t matter.”
I’m still angry that she’s gone. I’m still angry that her young daughters will grow up without her. But Michele would not want us to allow our anger or sadness to diminish the richness of our lives. Michele put so much love and energy and strength and wisdom out into the world; her influence lives on through all of us. Robert Holden said “the real work of our life is to love and be loved,” and the best way we can honor Michele’s memory is to do just that.
Thank you, Meesh, I’m a stronger woman for knowing you.