Two women. Two Rocks.
When breast cancer struck again at 49, I was obsessed with an unrequited urge to connect with my past. So reconnecting with Lisa, who lived across the street where we grew up, was just what my battered soul needed. Five years my senior, she had been my babysitter. Our parents were, and are, dear and true friends. She had breast cancer too; diagnosed only 13 months ago.
But here the similarities ended. As everything had gone remarkably well for me the first time around, it had gone remarkably so wrong for her. Lisa was dying. I, and my doctors, had a curative scenario in our sights.
I received her email updates, and after just two, the tête-à-tête with mortality opened a cascade of emotions that both blindsided me and opened my heart. We connected in cyberspace, culminating in a video call to celebrate our day-apart birthdays – her 55th and my 50th.
We were both scheduled to begin chemotherapy the following week. As we prepared to say goodbye, she asked me to take the smoothest rock I could find and hold it in my hand during chemotherapy – and imagine her hand in mine. I looked, but there was not a smooth rock to be found in the rugged, mountainous terrain of my present home. So I stole one from my neighbor’s rock garden and put it in my “cancer bag.” Every time I reached in for something in my bag that day, and every day since, I hold that rock in my hand for a second. And have Lisa’s hand in mine.
I sent a rock to Lisa from the rocky terrain of my home. So she could hold it and imagine my hand in hers, know I am thinking of her and somehow understand how much our reconnection means to me.
She died a few short weeks later. Her rock from me was placed in her grave by her son. My rock from her is still in my bag. We remain holding hands. My hand holding hers from this life and in the pursuit of a long life. Hers holding mine from what I hope is a world of peace and tranquility after so much suffering. Our hands, our rocks, transcend the heavens, the years and continents that divided us and brought us together in life and in death.