Two Words


November Night, Boston

Three years ago, the future dissolved in two words.

That Wednesday began in the Happiest Place on Earth.  We had flown to Orlando for a medical conference, and left in the wee morning hours to fly to Boston for an appointment of Jim’s.  

My tension level as we prepared to leave Florida was so high that I became frantic when the airport bus didn’t arrive at the scheduled time.

“It’s OK,” Jim told me.  “We’ve got plenty of time.”

I darted across the road in front of the hotel.

“We can’t miss our flight,” I told the man behind a desk, although, unlike my husband, I knew the news we would hear at the other end would be awful.

The man asked me when the flight was.  He checked some schedules and deduced that the bus had come and gone earlier than scheduled.   He picked up a phone.  “We’ll get you a cab to the airport,” he said.  “We’ll pay. Don’t worry.  We’ll get you there in time.”  He looked at me intently.  “Will that make you feel better?”

I couldn’t answer.

The day ended with my husband tending to my very first blazing migraine while we tried to figure out how to tell our four children he was going to die soon.  

“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth . . . .”

At a few minutes after 2:00 p.m., Jim was sitting on an examining room table in Boston when a surgeon asked him if anyone had discussed his CAT scan results with him.

“No,” Jim said.

The surgeon handed him some sheets of paper, computer printed and single spaced.  Jim began to read the radiologist’s report.  He looked at me and spoke two words.

“That’s disappointing.”

He had just read: “metastatic disease.”

“What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness. . . .”

Within an hour I was collapsed, stunned, against an outside garage wall in the cold, sudden darkness of a New England November afternoon. I didn’t think I could move.  I didn’t know how we could go home.

I leaned my head under Jim’s chin, which required I stand on tip toes.  “I’d really rather you run off with an Argentinian mistress instead of this,” I wept.

He looked into my red, swollen eyes.  “Nah, I still think you’d kill me sooner that way,” he told me.

He had a point.

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.”

I leaned on him again as we walked to another office building to try to make an appointment with an oncologist.  This was a place where patients and their families received news and advice about the worst kinds of cancer.

Jim stood calmly and protectively held my shoulder.  The receptionist looked at us, then disappeared for a moment.  She came back and said the oncologist was with his last patient of the day and would stay and talk to us as long as we needed.

“Can I get you anything?” the receptionist asked me, not the patient.

A woman leaving the office looked at us and said, “We got bad news today, too, dear.”

“Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”

Three of our children were away at school.  Our youngest had been staying with friends.  On the drive home Jim called their house.  We needed time together to figure out what to say to our children, and how to get them all back home.

“Do you want her to stay with us tonight?  I’ll drive her over to your house and we can pick up anything she needs.”

“Yes,” he said, gratefully.

Our friends and family have supported us, just as Jim physically supported me on that scarring day.

The friends who were brave enough to speak to us and each other on that night also were with us when Jim died, and spoke at his service.   Their kindness follows us, and our children, everywhere.

About Stephanie

In her spare time, Stephanie works full-time, and then some, as an attorney. She has published articles and delivered talks in arcane fields like forensic evidentiary issues, jury instructions, and expert scientific witness preparation. She also is an adjunct professor at a law school on the banks of the Charles and loves that dirty water, as she will always think of Boston as her home. You are welcome to take a look at her Facebook author page, or follow @SMartinGlennon on Twitter. All content on this blog, unless otherwise attributed, is (c) 2012-2020 by Stephanie M. Glennon and should not be reproduced (in any form other than re-blogging in accordance with Wordpress protocol and the numerous other wee buttons at the bottom of each post) without the express permission of the domain holder.
This entry was posted in Friendship, Love and Loss and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Two Words

  1. scillagrace says:

    Profound post. Kindness is indeed a deep place.

  2. bornbyariver says:

    the anniversaries are hard. life will never be the same.

  3. Angela Death says:

    That was deeply moving. I have no words.

  4. AJ says:

    Still standing by you. AJ

  5. R & J says:

    Always here for you & yours. R & J

  6. I like your writing very much, but I can’t hit ‘like’ at your words. Virtual hug coming on the waves… x annie

  7. Pat Wolfe says:

    This helped me today…..thank you.

  8. Amy says:

    … sorrow as the other deepest thing, well said about kindness. {{Hug}}

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  11. Randee says:

    You rarely read something like this when you first stumble upon someone’s blog. I don’t know what else to say. I hope writing this was healing, somehow, a little bit, for you.

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks so much for reading this and letting me know. It’s taken a long time for me to realize the most healing part is not the writing, which does help in its way, but hearing that someone else understands. Thank you.

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  19. i*Kan says:

    I felt I had to say something. But I have no words. A virtual squeeze of the hand, perhaps?

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