Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Choked Up with Gratitude

I wanted to write about my friend Martha today, but when I sat down at the computer, no words came out.

Right after she died, I had no trouble writing a heartfelt blog post in celebration of her life and committing to fighting the cervical cancer that killed her.

Today, two and a half years after her death, I am seeing Martha just before she died, hollow cheeked and wild-eyed as she said to me over and over again, “Rebe, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.”

I don’t know why Martha’s death is affecting me so much now, but I do know that grief isn’t a linear progression.

Maybe it’s because when Martha died I thought we would all be so glad to have her beautiful voice recorded so that we could listen to her always, but now I can’t bear to listen; the recording isn’t the same, and I know we will never hear her sing to us again.

Maybe it’s because when Martha died I didn’t understand the pain that her daughter Abril would go through for the rest of her life. When I spend time with Abril now, I am amazed at the gorgeous young woman she’s becoming at 13, but my closeness with her also means that I’ve glimpsed the abyss that Abril treads around each day, and I’m beginning to understand that she will always tiptoe around that chasm.

Maybe it’s because when Martha died she was older than me and Abril was so much older than my girls that I thought they’d had a long time together. But this year my daughter Eibhlín and I will be the same age as Abril and Martha were when Martha died. I now see that the time they had together was the blink of an eye, that another year or ten would never be enough time with my daughter.  

Dr. Gulnara Martinez, obstetrician gynecologist
The reason I tried to write about Martha this week is that on Monday a new doctor started at the Nueva Vida Clinic. Dr. Gulnara Martínez is an obstetrician gynecologist. She will be caring for the women of the Nueva Vida community every afternoon, prenatal care for our new mothers program, annual exams, breast exams and PAPs. If any PAPs come back with abnormal results, Gulnara can do cryotherapy, freezing and removing precancerous lesions right there in the Clinic before they even get to a size the human eye can see. By the time Martha even got her PAP results, her cancer had spread to other organs.

Maybe the real reason I can’t talk about Martha today is because my throat is choked by a lump of gratitude for the designated donation we received to hire an ob/gyn for the next five years. Being able to hire Gulnara, to have women’s health care at the clinic every day, means that maybe a daughter in Nueva Vida will be spared having to spend her life tiptoeing around the void where her mother used to be. That is a victory worth talking about. – Becca