The Notebook

Sometimes I still cry.

While we were cleaning out the ‘we don’t know where to put it so we’ll just put it in this extra room’ room that needs to become the ‘sparish’ room, I came upon a couple of notebooks.

The first one had some journaling, some grocery lists, some C doodling.  I tore out a few pages to keep.  The rest went to the recycle pile.

The second one took my breath away.

The first page began with a list of meds in my Mom’s handwriting.  Underneath that, a new and separate thought, were the words, “rapidly fatal.”  On another page there were the words “adenocarcinoma,” and “lymph nodes.”  There were words like, “Insurance Company,” and “MRI.”

In handwriting that goes back and forth between my mother’s and my father’s–often on the same page–I found the book that accompanied them to appointments.  That asked their questions.  That voiced their fears.  The book they carried with them after Mom was diagnosed with Lung Cancer.

There are test names and drug names and bold-faced facts that standing alone would elicit no emotion. 

And then there are the words that show me chinks in the armor that I rarely saw.  That maybe I was too scared to even look hard on. 

It was the fear.

“How do I manage the pain which is so bad now? (already….  at diagnosis)”

“Will I be paralyzed from this?”

“What can I expect?”

There are stark scribblings like “9-24 months.”  (We had 8 almost to the day when all was said and done). 

I wonder how alone my Mom felt in those fears.  I know I was just trying to be ‘the bearer of hope,’ and say only things my Mom could grab onto and hold with all her might.  But sometimes when you do that you deny a person their need to speak the truth about their feelings.  About their fears.  Which are real from the start.  I hope Mom didn’t feel too alone in her darkness as I stood desperately hoping to shine some light.  I hope that she knew she wasn’t alone in her fears.  I hope I did a better job than I remember of listening.

But what killed me in this notebook–what brought the tears pricking and overflowing and bewildering my husband who was sorting a few feet away–was what I read two pages later.

In Dad’s handwriting:  “Carolyn Helen, 8 lb. 1 oz.  20 1/2 in,” and the name of the hospital in which she was born and the number of days we’d be staying.  It was an empty page all by itself surrounded by all of this fear and pain and starkness.  It WAS the hope that I DID provide for them to hang onto.  It was the joy in the starkness.  Remembering that superimposed joy and starkness was overwhelming.  Remembering that year of newness and joy and pain and loss and the hugeness of it all, took my breath away.

The notebook also has the notes I scribbled after I called the Red Cross to let Husband know that Hospice thought she had two or three days at best.   Those notes were a lifeline of hope that I held onto.  They represented precious time I took away from being at my Mom’s side to tell my husband what was going on and to shoot a flare that might bring him home.  It did.  Mom held on, waited, lingered until Husband was by my side.  He came in late a day later.  She heard me say, “I love you Mom, Goodnight” and him say, “See you tomorrow Carol,” and a few hours later she was gone.   Such few words in that little notebook bookmarking moments and hours that I’ll never forget.

Further on, the notebook has notes of homes for rent that I scouted out that spring after staying with Dad during deployment when C and I went back to Washington for Husband’s coming home. 

It has scribblings I left for a babysitter during those six months as I tried to regain my footing. 

It has a years worth of experience and emotion and pain and joy all within a few pages of one another. 

And I cried.  And I held the notebook like it was something alive and real.  Like it was a link to those days and a way to hold my Mom’s hand again.

I thought about that year and the hugeness of all we lived through.  I didn’t minimize it or rush it away.  I sat there with it for a moment and remembered what it was like to have a baby.  Nurse my Mom.  Lose my  Mom.  Say goodbye to Husband as he left on deployment.  And live through the subsequent months of grief and aloneness while trying to piece back together the life I’d return to in another state.

It made me remember when I learned to take things a day at a time and to look only at “what is” and “what’s next.”

It made me miss my Mom and relive those days.

Sometimes I still cry.

12 thoughts on “The Notebook

  1. ((((((((Val)))))))))

    I shake my head at the strangeness of time passing. One minute things seems like a lifetime ago and the next moment it seems like just yesterday. That notebook is like a doorway to that not so distant time.

  2. I had a similar experience a few years after my mother died or maybe it was just one? I found my mother’s journal she kept when she had cancer and it gave me a window into what was happening to her at the time…I remember only one entry clearly and the first three words were DAMN DAMN DAMN or S#*# S#(# S##T and I think she was talking about the cancer coming back or something being worse…I don’t remember I didn’t keep it because it wouldn’t have been a good thing for me to hang on to. I am so glad you were able to find this. I love you dear sis.

  3. You will cry………you will cry again…….you will cry forever. But it is good, it is healing, it is healthy, like a wave it will push you forward.
    How awesome God is that He works in our lives through tears, through memories, through the faces and family that remain.
    Thanks for sharing this Val.

  4. As I read your post I found my self starting to hold my breath, almost afraid to breathe until it ended. I am so glad you found it, you were ready to.

    I love you,

  5. What a precious find — you have such a beautiful, soulful way with words, Val. So much of life is just like you said, grief and joy, pain and hope, entwined inseparably together. Thank you for sharing such lovely heartfelt thoughts.



  6. This made me bawl. I can’t imagine the exact pain you feel, but I know the feeling of still crying and grieving. Just when I think it’s over, it hits me again.

    After Kevin died, a wonderful priest gave me words that I think about all the time. Grief is like an ocean. Sometimes you stand in the surf and let the waves nip at your ankles, more than able to stand up to it. But sometimes those waves scoop you up and carry you out to sea for a while. You find your way back, but it’s an overwhelming time and a heck of a fight. I honestly still feel this way, 2 years later.

    Thanks for your post. And for the good cry.

  7. We are parallel. My sister-in-law (husband’s sister) of whom I loved so much…. Was dying while I was pregnant with twins. She couldn’t remember names, but I was “The Beautiful One” because of my growing belly… I had the twins and she was in a coma. She died and never saw the babies. They were 2 weeks when she died. I feel you. Thank you for blogging….

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