Lisa Priano, a friend from my online parenting forum, passed away on September 25, 2007. She was 37 years old and leaves behind a husband, Greg. She had recently been declared cured of leukemia, but the final round of chemo, intended to assure her continued health, came with an unexpected toll on her lungs that eventually made them unable to absorb oxygen. After a short hospitalization and a few days in a medically induced coma, she slipped away quietly, surrounded by her family. She was preceded in death by two children, both lost in early pregnancy in the year before her cancer diagnosis.
Lis, my heart aches tonight because you will never read this. You will never post on our forum again, you will never read my essays, you will never post about how your hair is finally growing back and you're finally feeling better and maybe you and Greg will try one more time for a baby. I mourn for you, and for all you lost in the difficult months that led up to this last horrible loss.
Marcie expressed perfectly what I was thinking -- it feels so selfish, this grief that revolves around us and what we lost when we lost you. I wonder, though, when it comes down to it, isn't that what most grief is?
I grieve for Greg, who knew you inside and out and loved you so much. I am so sad that he will never see your hair (he missed it so much, your beautiful dark hair) grow out and become lush and thick, and that he will never be able to push it out of your eyes when it is heavy with sweat from the exertion of bringing his child into the world. But the truth is, I never met Greg. I wouldn't recognize him if he sat next to me at McDonald's. I mourn for him, but in truth it is only what I imagine he feels from his anguished announcement of your death.
I mourn for your parents, who raised you and loved you and watched you grow into a strong-minded and wonderful woman. My heart aches as I think of them burying their daughter. But I never met your parents. I don't know them, and my grief for them is largely what I imagine my own grief would be if I had to bury my own daughter.
I mourn for your lost opportunities, but I confess that everything I imagine is simply an extension of what I imagine I would lose. I mourn for the children you will never have (my children), the holidays you will never celebrate (my holidays), the laughter with friends that has died with you (my friends), and the hours of joyous hard work you will never again spend singing the blues with your band. It is my band that I see, since I never met your band.
It seems so selfish. But Lis, what other grief do I have? I can't share their grief, and they can't share mine -- it will mean nothing to them if they go a week without seeing the always slightly bittersweet "blues_mama2005" user ID next to a new post on the forum. This is the only grief I have, and it is all I have to give.
I mourn for the years of friendship we are denied. I regret all the days when I thought about e-mailing you, just to see how you were doing, but didn't get around to it. I am sad that you and I will never get to sit down together at a piano. I will never get to roll out a walking bass line and fill it in with rich blues chords, and hear your marvelous voice in response. I mourn for the joy I would have shared with you when you posted a picture of your funny chemo hair growing out, and the delight when you announced that you'd gotten two pink lines on your home pregnancy test (and it would have been the fourth one you'd taken that day because you just couldn't believe it was true). I am sorry I will never see your trademark ear-to-ear grin sharing our jubilant relief when 2012 rolled around and you'd reached the five-year mark in your journey away from cancer.
If it is selfish to feel my own grief, then I will be selfish and unashamed. I cry my own tears, because they are the only ones I know how to cry. My own sorrow is all I have to offer, and I offer it with all my aching heart.
I wish I could have heard you sing.