Do you know what it looks like when the sun isn't quite down yet, but it's behind a mountain? You're in the dark, but the clouds glow pink. The trees on the mountaintops are the color of Thai basil, but the face of the mountain is the like the sea on a starry night. Dark. Alive.
On Tuesday, we crossed through Charlottesville and into the mountains at dusk. It's good to be reminded that the world doesn't turn off just because there are terrible things in it. The grief and loss don’t ever go away. But Tuesday at dusk, they yielded for just a moment out of respect to the setting sun.
It’s a welcome reminder. Something breathtaking and sublime to anchor on this weekend. Something to remind us that no matter what, the magnificent is always there, hanging around, just waiting to be noticed.
After three days of sunshine and cold, it’s raining in Charlottesville. Not raining really, but the clouds are low enough that you have to take off your shoes at the door, and find an old towel to dry off the dog when you come back in.
You can’t see the mountains past the tree line.
When Abi comes out this morning, she tells me she woke up in the night. No pain. And she rolled onto her side. By herself. Toward John. She hasn’t done this since surgery. She doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, but I can see that Abi believes this means something.
I know what she thinks it means. It’s mercy. It’s terrible. It’s lovely.
We got the results of Sunday’s MRI Friday morning. There is no cancer in her brain. Dr. McGaughey tells her the MRI suggests the disorientation is almost certainly drug related - just cancer’s collateral damage, and not the cancer itself.
But there’s cancer in the bones of her skull, and untreated, they will grow and begin to press on her brain. (That will be a problem.)
Dr. McGaughey, who was at home with his family when the results were automatically pushed to Abi - electronically, and without context - called her to explain what it meant, but not before he’d spoken to Dr. Jones, Abi’s radiation oncologist, to map out a plan to treat this before it affects her.
On Monday, Abi will meet with Dr. Jones. She will talk about the radiation treatment that Abi’s scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Treatment that will address the blockage in the airway to her left lung. Treatment that will address the cancer in on her frontal bone.
Friday night, Abi gathered all of us up. Wrapped us up in her love. Told us her truths. Gave us her gifts.
She told us what it means for her, not only to survive, but to live well. That living well means relationships and loving - both letting it come it and letting it pour out. Living means both.
Living well means having real choices. Deciding, and having the means to implement those choices.
Living well means having the courage to be completely honest. Not to turn her eyes away from what is right in front of her. Facing what’s hard with determination and tenacity.
Abi said out loud what her life has said since last February. No. Since the very beginning. That she’s not content to survive. That she’s determined to live well, and won’t trade living well for surviving. That she won’t surrender her ability to love or choose. Never. Those are lines she won’t cross.
These are her truths. Her gifts.
When she talks to Dr. Jones on Monday, Abi will talk about her truths. She’ll decide whether the radiation will help her to accept and give compassion to those she loves. How much it will affect her ability to decide. And with courage, decide how to proceed.
Later, we’ll have the same conversation with Dr. McGaughey regarding the next course of chemotherapy.
But those are Monday conversations.
Today, Abi will wrap us up in her love again.
She’ll watch Ohio State and Michigan in The Game.
She’ll hold John’s hand and let us rub her back and shoulder and knees.
She’ll watch John and me playing with Bindi in the yard, even in the rain.
She’ll rally everyone to go to the orchard to pick apples with Marcia and Jackie. Scratch that. It’s cold and rainy, but she’ll rally everyone to go to the orchard to buy apples and candied nuts and cider.
Maybe even go to Starr Hill later this afternoon if she’s able to steal a nap during the game.
At some point, she’ll take a few minutes to consider the pink mums in a cast concrete pot on the table on the deck that
Even if you can’t see the mountains, the magnificent is always there, hanging around.
Just waiting to be noticed.
This is Abi’s other truth.