We have no way of knowing how our journey will end.
I do know how journeys begin. I have seen it begin when all three of my children were born. It’s quite magical really. Moments after they come into this world their eyes pop open almost as if surprised. Then they look around.
I’ve often wondered, what did he see seconds earlier?
“Hello, hello.” I announce with a broad smile. Ridiculous to think they have a clue what I’m saying.
And yet they look at me as if to say, “oh, they were right I am going to be fine.”
Last year not long after the family returned from our trip to Costa Rica, my husband Benjie started complaining “My stomach doesn’t feel right.”
“Really? I’m sure it’s something you ate down there something like a parasite. Besides you just had a full physical and you are in perfect health.”
Can I just state the obvious? There is almost nothing worse than a man with an upset tummy. I have lived with this man for years and it never gets easier. Benjie was a true hypochondriac. He often had bouts with territious-of-workideous, a horrible disorder the only cure is to stay home and play video games all day.
About this same time my mother took a turn for the worse.
Whendii her caregiver was scared, “What should we do? I take her blood pressure 4 times a day. I make her eat ginger 4 times a day. She does not want to swallow.”
We started having a real medical nurse come to check on her every day and her ginger intake. She was swallowing her fake wine so really had bad could it be?
Benjie wasn’t feeling any better. He wasn’t eating much and blowing up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon. He was really taking this sick business too far.
On a Sunday morning Benjie said matter of fact, “I’m so uncomfortable I have to go to the hospital.”
To me there is nothing worse than going to a hospital Emergency Room. “Are you sure?
Can’t we just put Neosporin on it. My mother taught me to put Neosporin on any anything and it will heal it.”
But I could see he wasn’t feeling well. I packed a small bag for him and a huge bag filled with magazines and books to help be conquer the endless boredom I was about to face of sitting in an ER. We sat for hours and hours before he was admitted for tests.
When I got home it was shear madness.
“Your mom not eating.”
“Eat an Eggo. Give her fake wine. Give me real wine. Calgon take me away.”
Then the phone rang, it was my mother’s doctor. On a Sunday night?
“You have to take your mother to the emergency room immediately!”
“What? Are you crazy I was just there?”
“I’m sorry you need to go Methodist.”
“But my husband is at St Jude’s across town can’t they at least be in the same hospital?”
That was just crazy talk.
Whendii and I got my mother into the wheelchair, only dropping her twice.
This was about to become a Tale of Two Sickies
From that day forward my life was in an irretrievable spin. Between working, kids, seeing Benjie at his hospital and going to see my mother at her hospital.
One time I got off the elevator on the 4th floor, oh yes they were both on the 4th floor and turned right not left and walked in to what would be Benjie’s room in the other hospital, the bed was empty. I gasped, “Oh she’s dead.” I couldn’t stop the tears. I felt a gentle tap “You’re in the wrong room.”
It was the beginning of a perfect storm.
I took this opportunity to purge my soul to my mother, knowing that she was taking it to her grave.
“You know,” I started, “I’m not the grown-up type.
I smoked pot once in college and didn’t like it.
I stole a lipstick from the drug store when I was 10 and was so scared I would get caught I never went back. Thank God they went out of business.
I cheated on tests.
I cheated on boyfriends.
I tried pot again and still didn’t like it.”
It felt good getting all this off my chest.
She stared at me blankly.
Back at Benjie’s hospital… what we soon learned was what we feared the most was now our reality. Benjie had Stage 4 cancer.
We talked about our next course of action. 3 months to 1 year to live. Or as I saw it, we had 1 year to fix this mess. We got busy trying to find alternative medicines. Cancer programs to get him into. It became a war room with different strategies.
“Maybe we could try treatments in Mexico?” Benjie suggested.
“Why would we want to go there the cartel is killing people left and right.”
“What if I don’t have enough time?”
“You will. I’m not a betting person but if I was, I would bet that the woman older than most counties is going to win and make to heaven first.”
The hospital had little more to offer us. I brought Benjie home. He could only make it to the living room. That night on my FaceBook page was a shared memory from 3 months ago when we were in Costa Rica. Just 3 months ago.
The kids and I decided to sleep down stairs with him. They slept on the couch and I slept on the floor right next to his Lazy Boy reclining chair.
Hours into the night he started coughing, chocking. I jumped up scared to death.
“It’s going to be okay, you’re going to be fine. I’ll get your pills and some water.” I ran to the kitchen.
When I got back to the living room he was standing strong like a soldier looking out, “No, this is my last breath.”
“No! You promised a year. You can’t go first it’s not your turn.”
I have never seen life leave a body before. His eyes wide open he starred bravely into the dark and then gently as if he was being carried fell and landed on the floor, missing all the furniture. I tried to catch him. His body like a deflated balloon. He laid next to me. Silent. The kids still asleep on the couch. The time was 12:02 am, October 26. My birthday.
I told my mother that Benjie had passed away. I also told her she was the best Mom ever and I hope she was right that I could handle all this because now it was up to me to get this ship to shore safely.
When I looked at her, tears rolled down her stoic cheek.
“My God Mom you’ve been in there this whole time haven’t you?”
They say when two people die close in time, the first one goes to prepare a spot in heaven for the other one.
My hope for them is that at that very moment when they arrived they opened their eyes on the other side and looked around… and then peacefully felt, “she was right everything is going to be fine.”
And now my new journey begins.
Live with waffletude.
5 thoughts on “”
Amazing story, and circumstances. So well told! Thank you for sharing.
Dear Leslie, Such a hard story to read. It must have been very challenging to write. Life/stories which is the lasting reality? I hope both. As always you are an amazing trooper who carries on and on with unbelievable strength and humor. I love you, Naomi >
Leslie, I miss him every day. Every time I pick up a camera, look at a photo. I miss his laugh, his advice, his friendship. I can’t imagine the strength required to write this.
Wow, what a brave thing you did. I hope writing this story and sharing it with all of us is a big, positive step in your healing journey. Thank you for trusting us.
Leslie, I am crying as I read. What you went through & with such a brave demeanor – I wish you the very best in your future. Benji chose a very special lady!
love you, Khursheed