She was 59. She thought she was having mini strokes. She was seeing what she referred to as “auras.” She was CRAZY intelligent, with an IQ off the charts. All of a sudden, she couldn’t find simple words to to say what she was thinking. “I need to make my hair smaller.” She was incredibly frustrated. She went to the eye doctor who referred her to a neurologist. Glioblastoma. Inoperable. 6 months.
After the biopsy, they reduced the prognosis to 4 months. Then, meningitis from the biopsy. She was one of a very small percentage of patients who this happens to. 3 weeks later, she was gone.
I miss her every day. Linda Diane. I miss everything she did for us, for the little things and for the big things, for her triumphs and for her failures. The scent of Opium perfume, DoubleMint gum and Kool cigarettes mixed together would make me crazy while I dreamed of a day she could give up smoking for good. Today, I would give my left arm to be in a car with her (preferably a green K car or a silver Chevy Citation) with those scents filling the air as I listen to her sing along to Barbra Streisand or Les Miserables. I am comforted by the memory of her smile and her world class hugs, and by the understanding that she is at peace in the Kingdom of Heaven, and that her pain and suffering are no more (her younger life was not an easy one, ripe with abuse, poverty, and struggle).
Though it is impossible to reduce a life to just a few sentences, for me, there is a particular event that occurred in her last few weeks that says so much about who she was. She was dying. Her life was coming to an end and yet, she was still consumed with thoughts of other people. She told us about a man who she knew in her community who had recently gone to jail on suspicion of murder (wait, what? yes, murder). It wasn’t only stray cats and dogs that my mom took in, by the way. She had a heart for the unwanted, the neglected, the downtrodden, anyone on need. This man who was in jail called my mom. He talked and she listened. That was her gift. She told us that he was probably guilty. He had told her it was very cold in jail and that he was barefoot. She gently (but with resolve) and with quiet calm asked us to bring him a pair of socks. We all thought she was crazy. But that was who she was. A little bit crazy, yes, but her intent was always pure and full of grace. A pair of socks. We now collect new thermal socks every year at Christmas in her honor to give to the homeless.
Three weeks. As hard as this was on those who loved her then and still love her, we understand what a blessing it was. She was somehow spared the awful treatments and deterioration that tears the minds and hearts of patients and their loved ones apart. Before we knew about the meningitis, but we fully understood what she was battling and the 4 month prognosis, she calmly told me she had known. She had known it was her time. And she was at peace. Her grace was brilliant. What a gift she gave to those of us she left behind through that grace. But through all of her brilliance, that still touches my life today (she passed in 2004) and will for all of my days, I hate this disease. I hate it with every fiber of my being. I use that hate to remind me that I can contribute, in whatever small ways I can. A tiny difference is still a difference.
I am grateful to all those who actively fight, advocate, participate in events, donate, care, and walk alongside those battling. God bless.