She sat on the edge of her bed, looking at herself in the mirror on the dresser. Her face looked pale, and there were tears running down her face. She felt too weak yet to lie down on her bed, so she just sat there, with the breeze coming in her bedroom window, and tried deep breathing to calm herself down.
She had a secret. She had carried this for some time now. She could never find the right time to tell anyone, for fear her life would change, and the lives of others who she touched would be changed forever.
Grace lived on a hill in a small town, about twenty miles from the nearest big city of Michigan. Her husband had passed away from cancer ten years ago, but yet she could remember it as if it was yesterday. Her children were grown and had all moved to bigger areas to raise their families. Grace now lived in her big home all alone, except for her two parakeets and her old dog, named Brute.
Brute had become the man of the house since Johnny had died. He followed Grace everywhere she went, and lie at the bottom of the bed as she slept, keeping ears and eyes open for sounds.
Grace had never worked outside of her home. She had done odd jobs at times, taking in ironing for neighbors, and offering her services in spring and fall cleaning. She spent holidays baking cookies and candies, then she would walk from neighbor to neighbor, so she could hand deliver each gift with a hand written card. You could also find Grace tending to anyone who she heard was ill. Tidying up their house, taking a pot of soup to them. Often you could hear her reading her favorite scriptures from the Bible to her sick friends. Everyone loved Grace.
Now it was her turn to need help, but she refused to let anyone know she was ill. She wanted to have her life continue as it was, and to die in her own home. Grace didn’t want pity and she didn’t want to see sorrow on others faces when they came to visit.
She wanted to continue to bake and when company came, or sometimes when she was surprised by a visit from family, she wanted to greet the grandchildren with cookies and milk.
Grace had not been feeling well for several months, and noticed every time that she ate, no matter how little or too much, her stomach swelled. When it became more difficult to breathe from her swollen belly, she made herself an appointment with her family doctor. After a thorough check up and many questions asked, there were special testings ordered to eliminate or confirm different thoughts the doctor had.
A week had gone by, and she received the call. The nurse ask her if she could come in to the office in two days in the morning at 9:00am. She replied with a yes, and hung up the phone.
She tried to stay busy. She spent time on her swing out in her yard, watching the birds. Once in a while a car would drive by and honk, and they would each wave at each other. She baked a little, and did a load of white laundry.
In two days she entered the doctor’s office to hear the words colon cancer. Grace started to cry, and the doctor came over to her and put his arm around her and said together they would fight this, but inside her heart, Grace knew her time was short-lived. She had waited too long to seek a doctor’s help. She looked up at the doctor and asked him how much time she had, and he shook his head back and forth, and neither said a word.
She went from the doctor’s office back to her home. She wasn’t hungry, and found herself very tired, so went and laid down on her bed. She slept well into the night and when her eyes had opened, it was day break.
Over breakfast, she went into her memories, and replayed Johnny’s illness. The medications that were prescribed, the cancer treatments. She remembered how ill he had become from the side effects of all he had been given. She remembered a week before he passed, that Johnny had barely whispered to her, that if he could do it all over again, he would have died normally, with God’s help and no medications.
She remembered the neighbors stopping by frequently, dropping off cakes and casseroles, staying long enough to chat with her, telling her about someone else who had suffered the same thing, and how much they had pained, and how this person or that had taken it upon themselves to become leader, and the bickering and arguing that went on.
All of these memories brought tears to her eyes, as all she had ever wanted was to spend time alone with her Johnny, telling him that she loved him, telling him that she would be alright after he left. She had wanted to give him permission to go ahead and go home to their Lord, that she would be coming along soon, but she never got to do this. There was always someone there, and even when Johnny closed his eyes for the last time, there were many around his bed side.
The doctor had prescribed different medications to ease her pain, to stop the vomiting, and to help her sleep, but she never filled the prescriptions. She was ready to go home to be with her Johnny.
Family came for a visit near the end of her days. They had noticed that she looked thinner and had questioned her about this, even suggesting that she see her doctor. Grace had told them to please worry about something else that was of importance, that she was just watching her diet, and that she had added a few too many pounds. They accepted this, and the grandchildren, and her own children, had a wonderful visit.
Neighbors came and went, stopping for a short spell, a small time of talk, and moved on about their day.
For weeks went by, and she became more somber, as she knew that her time was close. She sat down and wrote her children and grandchildren each letters, telling them how she loved them so, and how they had been such a blessing to her life. She managed to do one last day of baking. She made her famous sugar cookies. After they were all cooled, she put them in small baskets, and the next day, took them to each of her neighbors and sat them on their door step, each with a note, of how much they meant to her, and how safe she had always felt since Johnny had died, knowing they were near by.
That evening, she found herself sick to her stomach, and saw blood in the stool. She went to her bed, and looked at herself in the mirror, and saw her pale face, and tears running down her cheeks. She was too weak to lie down, but she was so sleepy. She sat there for a few moments, feeling the breeze coming through her bedroom window, and then she lie down on her bed, and went home to see Johnny.