By Judith Toy
Judith had planned, and hoped, to write her regular column this month… but found she is much too tender and busy with the reality of her dear husband Philip’s late-stage cancer. She has been keeping a journal and posting it on the Caring Bridge site. We thought you readers would want to have the chance to hear and connect with them as they traverse this last part of the path they have walked together these past 35 years.
My intention for January’s column was to write about the incredible friendships that have supported us during this time of Philip’s extreme illness. Hospice has been called in. I just cannot do it, but I was going to excerpt some of the Journals and messages from The Caring Bridge as an example of outstanding friendships that have become a true community in our time of need. And as an example of making end stage cancer a beautiful experience. [So, we did the excerpts for her… just a very few. It’s well worth your time to read them all
at CaringBridge. – Editors]
It is early morning, 4:54 December 11, dark with stars. I have not yet seen the moon. Philip left an electric candle on in the living room last night. I do not know if he was up in the night or if he left it on before going to bed. But that is Philip. A light in the dark. He has always filled me up.
Every morning, it is his habit to go to the back door, step out and “see my lucky stars.” They are shining there for him this morning, although he is not yet awake.
December 13: Last night, what a large and tender gathering at cloud cottage, with sister sangha members from Waynesville, and Julia driving all the way from Sandy Mush. Laurie came back, with an armload of candles to cover the altar. Larry led, offering a healing Chi Qong session. Tributes to Philip. Tears and anger, questions and solace, comfort and love, all mixed up.
December 15: Daughter Laura [arrived on Dec. 13] is a huge help. Talked with Halle this morning, our younger daughter, and they will be coming next week.
Angels of light have arrived to light up Cloud Cottage. I am living in gratitude, each moment more precious than the next. I stroke Philip’s hair, massage his back, kiss him. He tells me “I love you so much.” He thanks me for everything, including making the bed.
December 18: Our teacher says that walking on water is not the miracle; it is when we ourselves can walk gently on the earth, reviving her, being peace. So when I told Philip that a man who loves him very much is looking for a miracle for him, Philip said, “It is happening.”
“What?” I asked.
“The miracle. It’s happening now.”
December 19: Philip put up a sign for people who were here on Sunday. It said “I’m livin’ the life I love and I’m lovin’ the life I live”, a quote from an old Mose Allison song. The miracle is that we’re both completely present with one another now, perhaps in a way we have never been before. He is in much less pain with a new pain med from Dr. Bryan, our Oncologist.
December 23: Yesterday, there was more, a new Google Chrome computer, between a notebook and a laptop. Brand new, showed up in the afternoon from our favorite anonymous donor. My second computer had just crashed. Next, I arrived home to Philip, who had just had a visit from a dear friend who offered to pay for the alternative cancer remedy of his choice. Then came a phone call from our former housemate in Pennsylvania, to say that there is a series of innoculations almost guaranteed to rid him of cancer. These are off the radar, because, of course, cancer is big business these days. Even though these treatments are documented in the medical literature, they are still underground, so to speak. Well.
December 25: A couple of weeks ago, I asked Philip, “What would you like to do for Christmas?”
“Every morning is Christmas morning,” he said.
Family and spiritual friends are gold. There is nothing greater or richer or more sexy or powerful than this love we share, the star that lights us all with its steady, mindful beam.
Please, may Philip and I bathe in this brightness a moment longer?
December 28: It is dark and wet, and while the trees seem dead to the morning, their sap runs.
Highlight of a magical day yesterday: all five grandchildren gathered on Philip’s bed, quietly talking with him for an hour. They came like angels. Philip is fed.
December 30: For me, personally, there exists a calm that comes when all else drops away except one’s focus on the beloved.
When someone is hurting, we often see them as “other.” So how, then, do we come to realize we are not isolated beings? One way is to see that if we do not help others, we are hurting ourselves.
And herein lies the foundation of peace, for if we do not take care of one another, I suffer, you suffer, the whole world suffers.
And yesterday I had a rare heart-to-heart talk with Barbie, my sister-in-law, who is caring for my brother Bob, with whom I recently had a long-dreamed-of reconciliation, who is dying of cancer in Mentor, Ohio. We shared our feelings fully and openly.
January 10: How freeing to be relieved of the burden of having to know everything! How freeing not to have to predict the outcome of Philip’s cancer, but to let it unfold.
January 23: This is a time like no other. Each day auspicious, the demands of medicine to come to decisions, decisions with weight in them. When this heaviness comes upon me I can pan back and cast y
eyes on the stars, how tiny we are, chasing about with our little purposes on this anthill of ours. And suddenly there is space to breathe. Relief.
As of publication date, Philip is still living through his poignant journey of love.