Elwood H. Smith
Maggie Pickard 1941-2013
APRIL 1, 2013
Journal Entry 10
I was blindsided by Maggie's ravenous cancer. Maggie was trim and fit. She dragged me to daily 4.5 mile walks most days. She cooked simple, delicious, wholesome meals like cod & spinach and salmon & kale. She occasionally had a beer or a martini, but mostly she was happy with a few sips of my nightly ales. She had very few health issues over the years and she was easy going--not always an easy thing, considering she was snagged into the hyperactive vortex of Elwood's World. I am a worrier, I take a daily blood pressure pill plus one for a slight heart murmur and I have acid reflux. I carry around a spare tire--no surprise, since I drink at least two beers nightly and sit for hours on my ass at a drawing table or in front of my computer most days. But I am (for the moment, at least) alive and Maggie is not. It makes no sense.
In late autumn, 2012, Maggie began having ever-increasing heartburn and gas pains. The docs figured it was acid reflux. Treatment didn't help much and her discomfort increased. Something was wrong with her intestinal tract, we knew that, but we were unprepared when we received news on February 6, 2013 that her ultra sound results showed a suspicious image in her liver. She had a CT scan the next day, two days before our 30th wedding anniversary. Five days later, we were sitting in the office of the highly respected oncologist, Dr. Yuman Fong at Memorial Sloan Kettering discussing three possible treatments for Maggie's Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. (1) palliative care (2) a somewhat more gentle form of chemo or (3) a much more aggressive version of chemo. Her biopsy revealed cancer cells scattered about her pancreas, which had invaded 50% of her liver. We were shocked but Maggie remained steady and calm, accepting the course of events that unfolded from that day until the morning she departed.
I am devastated. Many years ago, I sat with a friend as she died while I held her hand. Later, I was with my mother when she died and still later on I sat at the bedside of another friend when he died. I had some closeup experience with death, but I was woefully unprepared for this shattering loss. For 32 years, Maggie was in my life nearly constantly. We worked in studios across the hall from each other for most of the day. We loved and walked and slept together. We attended concerts and movies together and we joined friends for dinner and played music and life was interesting and good. Sure, we bickered and griped like all couples do, but we held tight for 32 years.
It has been five days since Maggie's death and the pain has not lessened. No surprise. I have been cast at sea by opportunistic cancer cells. My compass, my dear companion is gone--not for a short trip to Italy with friends while I stay home to tend to the cats, but for the rest of my days and I cannot take it in. I am living in two realities. I can laugh and eat and drink with friends and, during those spells, my life feels almost normal in its way. Without warning, I am drawn into the alternate reality of deep, profound, heart-wrenching loss. It is unlike any emotional pain I have ever known. Friends offer advice, not knowing that the hell to say to me. Who would? I burst into tears at the drop of a memory and it can be unnerving to those who want to help me mend. Please allow me to break down. I am wounded to the core, but I don't need grief therapy. Really I don't. I don't need to be told anything, I need only to be allowed to weep when I am overtaken with intense sadness and loss. Don't worry, I regularly switch gears and engage for a while in normal conversation and laughter. I know I'll mend down the line, but not tomorrow, not for a good long while. I'll get through this ordeal, but this feeling of loss is profound. It won't disappear altogether, but it will fade to haze. I need time. I need Maggie. I'll get one, not the other.