i carry your heart with me

I have been living inside my head over the last few weeks. There are things that I find difficult to share and so I keep them to myself. When you aren’t willing to give anything away, you can’t write. What is there to talk about when all you have are secrets? I’m ready to let go of some of them now.

The last time I saw Cindy was when I was hospitalized with pneumonia. She brought me food, chicken biryani and daal. Chocolate suckers shaped like hearts and vulvas. We talked about Dr. Mackay and the documentary of which Cindy was a subject. It was on right to die. The producers wanted to film one of her appointments with the doctor, and we discussed if we thought she would allow it, or if the hospital would allow it. Cindy thought Dr. Mackay seemed uncomfortable with the idea of having the appointment documented.

I didn’t find out if Cindy had that appointment filmed or not. We tried to meet for coffee — the Common was our place — but between her increasing troubles and our respective hospitalizations, plans kept disintegrating. I dropped by ward 17B one day to see her, but she had been discharged an hour earlier.

That’s around the time I started getting the emails. A site was set up where we could leave messages and coordinate help as it was needed. We began receiving updates — Cindy was weak, Cindy wasn’t taking visitors. Cindy was at home and Cindy was comfortable. She had come through the storm yet again and was beginning to feel better. She still wasn’t having visitors, but she appreciated the messages of support.

I received the phone call on Tuesday night when I was preparing for Write Club. It was time. A matter of hours, they thought. Cindy’s family had been called to come, her partner was already there, she had been by Cindy’s side through all of this. Cindy was still conscious, still able to talk and joke when she was awake, though that wasn’t often. Her friend, the one who called me, reassured me again that she was comfortable. On a morphine drip. No pain. She would call me again when Cindy passed.

I didn’t hear from her. A couple days went by, and I wondered. I called her Thursday evening. She’s still hanging in there, but it won’t be long. She’s stopped eating and drinking. Her blood pressure is so low they sometimes can’t get a reading. Her heart won’t last much longer. She is sleeping most of the time but interacts with us when she’s awake. 

She told me that if I wanted to say something to Cindy, I could write it in an email and she would try to read it for her. I already knew what I wanted to say. It’s strange — the last time I read this poem was for Shea and Paul at their wedding. Such different experiences, yet so similar. These are the times when love is declared fervently, seriously, when it is the only thing of value or importance.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in                                                                      my heart) i am never without it (anywhere                                                                 i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done                                                                 by only me is your doing, my darling)                                                                                i fear                                                                                                                                   no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want                                                           no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)                                                              and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant                                                       and whatever a sun will always sing is you

and here is the deepest secret nobody knows                                                                    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud                                                                    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows                                                           higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)                                                                       and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)  .

e.e. cummings

Cindy taught me how to be angry. She taught me how to create space when space is missing. She was a good teacher.

I started telling Cindy a story almost three years ago. Every time we spoke, I would spin a little more for her. She thought it was beautiful and helped me see the beauty too, even as I worried that I was crafting something ugly. She showed me there is beauty even in ugliness, and that the kind of beauty that you have to search for through ugliness is more valuable than beauty that stands boldly in front of you. I’m sad that she’ll never hear the end. I’m sad that she won’t be around to help me find the ending.

Cindy died at 10:45 this morning. Goodbye, my sister-friend. I love you and I will miss you.

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About Alicia Louise

I'm a writer, editor, fact checker, storyteller, events organizer, chronically busy yet endlessly lazy, mildly neurotic (though I keep the neuroses well-hidden, one hopes) 32-year-old with recurrent ovarian cancer. I like people and good writing and straight talk. I have a hard time feeling sorry for people, including myself, but the people that I love, I love passionately; one may even say creepily. I try to keep that mostly to myself. I'd like to be charming, but I'm usually just a mess. I'm like a gull slamming into your windshield.
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8 Responses to i carry your heart with me

  1. Baris Mumyakmaz says:

    I am so sorry to hear that, Alicia. I lost a radiotherapy friend couple of months ago. He was indeed one of the most well-known folk singers in Turkey. Every time I hear his songs on TV, I seem to connect back to him. I hope you have something nice to hold on to with Cindy, too. I really like the poem by the way.

  2. just *k says:

    Alicia, my connection to your entire first paragraph is so deep it felt ripped from my own soul. Thank you for letting go and sharing, it is a brave thing to do, and I believe, inspires bravery in others. Secrets create the worst kind of lonely. I am so sorry to hear about your friend.

  3. Dad says:

    Thanks for caring and sharing Alicia…love you lots.

  4. Sandra says:

    I am so sorry you lost your friend and I hope that the documentary she was part of will really make a difference. hugs.

  5. Arianne says:

    what a beautiful tribute my dear… i feel honoured to read it. and i am so sorry for this loss. sending love, as usual.

  6. Gail says:

    Alicia, your thoughts are beautiful, and as Cindy’s Aunt, I can assure you that she is still listening 😉
    Big HUGS to you

  7. Carol Eastwood says:

    Alicia, what beautiful words and memories. I have been Cindy’s friend since grade school, I too got the calls and can relate. She will be dearly missed. Hugs.

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