Sunday, September 05, 2010

Fire? Frying pan? Can I get back to you on that?

I keep telling myself, hey this whole scheduling thing is going to settle down any minute now. Still waiting for that to happen, which is not helped by having no time sense whatsoever. It is, after all, Labor Day weekend, which throws off all kinds of things - good problems to have in this category: too many cookouts to try and go to.

Not so good problem, of course, is the death of a friend. Memorial service was today, visiting hours yesterday, and I desperately needed to not hold it together all the time. And I didn't. I bugged Mary Kate's husband to make sure he ate and drank and slept - "and did you do that TODAY??" - but what I did not have made for a rather long list: anything useful to do, the capacity to organize anything, presence of mind, energy. I decided that was okay, though; I am not indispensable and am certainly not the center of everyone else's life, and sometimes, when it is all one can manage, it is enough to just show up. The two thoughtful men who've come to mean a lot to me both helped, by being present at different times for me to cry on and hold onto.

Mary Kate was adamant about maintaining her privacy and her dignity, and I was both afraid to intrude and unable to offer much help anyway. I was not terribly close to her generally, except for the intense, joyous period of time when we worked on "The Tempest" together, and one particular conversation that I now believe was our goodbye. She'd said, who can I tell about this really cool laser surgery technique they're going to use on the tumors that have metastasized to my brain? Oh, Liz will appreciate this! And she was right; I did. It was a really cool technique. It was also the most terrible news imaginable, which she also knew I would appreciate. When oncologists diagnose melanoma, the whole focus of treatment is to avoid ... metastasis to brain tissue. And that, she was telling me, was what had already happened. I said, yeah that is really really cool, and ... oh my god Mary Kate. And I looked at her, and she looked at me, and we held onto each other for a good long time.

I am fiercely grateful that she held on and stayed alive for as long as she did, angry that science could not, in the end, move fast enough to save her, sad and stunned and oddly distanced. This is not the grief I've known; it is an echo, with the melody of Mary Kate's voice and the color of her beautiful red hair, and the caring, capable hands that raised strong, brilliant children and made things grow and knitted and clapped in time to music that sometimes only existed because she made it. I will miss her keen insight, her intentionality, her directness and compassion and mischief.

We drank a "last dram" to her memory today. Morgan (thank the gods for people who can think of and do these things, because I surely couldn't) brought sheets of music so that those of us who wanted to sing the toast, could.

So I'd better get going on my coursework, and do my bit to push the edges of what we know a little further out. Every now and then, that edge's movement pulls a human being out of the part where things are dark and unknown, and into a place where we have some idea of what to do. I have journal articles to read, books to peruse. I'm grateful for the chance to make this journey, and for the company I have on it - and you know who you are.