Memorial day


It had not really occurred to me that this Sunday was my friend Merle’s memorial service. I felt glad that I had not gone to Virginia for the weekend and missed it. I went to the restaurant where the services were being held with my friends Mariko and Dan. Since Merle was a midwife there were lots of babies and nursing moms. There were several people there I knew. A couple that I taught childbirth classes to. A few people I knew from the birthing community. It was very sad and overwhelming for the people she was closest too. But I think that is often the case. Too many people showing love and support can feel very overwhelming. The facts surrounding Merle’s suicide were made clear to me today. The things that I had questions about were answered.From discussing the situation with her closest friends its obvious that everyone around her was doing absolutely everything they could to protect her and her daughter from this exact situation. I felt relieved to know that there had been intervention. And I was sad to learn that all the people around her felt she had turned a corner only to lose her days later. I just wish Merle could have believed she was strong enough to go on.

During the day I had a reoccurring image of her and I at Clay’s birth. The two of us interacting while I was in labor.I thought about how both of us were doomed. Marked for death. Is it a blessing that we do not know what things will befall us?Is it a good thing that we have no idea how long or short our lives will be? Am I glad that I had no idea that 6 months after Clay’s difficult birth I would learn that I had stage 4 cancer? Or that 14 months later Merle would have a baby and then decide to end her life? We were doomed and we did not even know it. I shared this with Kelly. His response… “aren’t we all doomed?” I guess so.

I told my friend, the midwife, that maybe some good can come out of this. She will never let a mother with postpartum depression slip through her fingers. And that can be said of my situation as well. The midwives and childbirth educators I know will tell all new moms to see their doctor when they have a breast infection. They will let them know about IBC and insist they take it seriously. This is all I care about. That my illness not be in vain. I think Merle’s death should not be in vain either. We just need to be very tuned in about how a new mom is feeling. How is she coping? I think it has really opened my eyes about depression. And that is not a bad thing.

Nevertheless the sense of malaise remained with me throughout the day. I would feel sad, ask myself why am I sad, and then remember it is because my sweet friend died.

I used to have that feeling all the time after my diagnosis. I would be having fun with the kids or just playing with the baby. And I would be aware of this nagging sadness and I would remember oh yes I have cancer. It just seemed like something I could forget once in a while. Now it is just something I know. I just don’t feel as depressed by it. I just have to live anyway. I am not sure if I think about it all the time. I think a lot of the time I am thinking about the stuff you do. Bills. Kids. Pizza. Housework. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Sometimes I wonder how long I will live. Sometimes I think is my cancer spreading? Is the chemo working? I spend a lot of time praying. I spend a lot of time just trying to be happy while remembering I have cancer.

Today may have been more difficult than some but I am sure there are more of those to come. Just as I am sure there are many good ones to come as well.

Just a reminder….I will be on PBS tomorrow night(Monday the 3rd) at 9pm. “Learning from the Heart” It is just a few minutes in the middle of the program. Watch it if you get a chance.

9 Responses to “Memorial day”

  1. Tina says:

    I wish I could still get PBS so I could watch the show. I know what Merle went thru as far as the depression goes – I’ve never had a baby, so my episodes weren’t postpartum related, but I know that hopeless feeling. I’ve described it as a dark cloud in your mind that compeletly blocks out everything positive, cheerful or bright. I didn’t care what happened to me. I just wanted to lay down and die and not care who found me or what they had to go thru. I look back and can’t believe the things I contemplated doing. God has gotten me thru every time. Thankfully, it’s been a very long time since I’ve been in such a state and I pray it never happens again. A lady in church asked me one Sunday how I was. At the time I was feeling kind of low in my spirit and I told her so. She said “That’s okay . . . just don’t camp there.” The light bulb dinged over my head! I used to beat myself up for feeling down or in a low mood, which only made me feel worse. Now I realize that it’s okay to feel that way because I know it’s not going to last forever. I have hope and the promise of God. Have a wonderful week and I’m sending you a virtual hug!!

  2. Mary Beth says:

    What a powerful and emotional posting … I was very taken by your recollection of Clay’s birth and the time that you and your friend Merle shared that day. I continue to pray for you and your family and now Merle’s family, too.

  3. joshua says:

    we’re watching you right now!!! you’re so smart!!!

  4. Kate W says:

    Andrea, I just watched “Learning from the heart”, which you told me about yesterday when I talked with you at Merle’s memorial. The show is very inspiring in total, and your part came across very well. (The producers mentioned that a lot had been edited from the show to get it to fit the time allotted, but if you buy the DVD you get all the extras… )In particular your comment about “death sitting on the sofa” made a huge impression. I think ANYONE would benefit from seeing this production, even if you’ve already learnt the lesson that you really do need to “stop and smell the roses”, “don’t sweat the small stuff” etc. Those cliches are true. Isn’t that what the Slow Movement is all about? I was reminded of my 5 yr old daughter recently. She was trying to do some drawing, and she concentrates really hard, immerses herself in it, needs time to do it. Her 7yr old brother was playing his Nintendo DS nearby, and just as I myself realised I couldn’t stand the noise of it anymore , she said: Emmett, turn it off! It’s making me colour too fast!!!… Anyway, I was glad I decided to stay a bit longer yesterday. I was on the point of leaving when I came and sat at your table. Now I’m sure there was a reason for it.
    It’s hard enough to make sense of the end of Merle’s life, even having attempted the same myself in the past. But making a connection with you and your blog, and what you wrote about the situation back in Feb., and your readers’ responses, all that has helped. Thanks. Kate.

  5. Andrea says:

    Kate,what a wonderful story!Its making me color too fast!I love that. Thank you so much for watching. It was wonderful to meet you as well.It is hard for everyone/anyone I think to make sense of Merle’s death. Thanks Kate

  6. Linda Conley Soffer says:

    Another example of the idea that everything happens for a reason – if you had gone to Virginia you would have missed Merle’s memorial, so I guess that means you can thank the Virginia illness (and even your immuno-compromised state) for that. Funny the things we can be grateful for in context. So hopefully Merle’s death and your cancer will also be things to be grateful for, for some reason, at some point. Like you wrote “not in vain”. When you are in the thick of it, it is hard to see outside of it (just like chemo days I imagine). One interesting aspect of Buddhism & other Eastern traditions is this idea of gratefulness – not just for the things that are obviously wonderful, but also for those that really challenge us. It is easier to talk about than it is to practice, but it is a very interesting perspective to adopt. It is similar to the ideas you have written about, about acceptance and “God’s plan” and the idea that we can let go of trying so hard and just allow ourselves to gently be. Just wanted to share that.

  7. Donna Arnold says:

    Hi Andrea:
    Is the photo at the top of Merle? Again, we are reminded of the fragility of life…it really does “hang in the balance”….
    WE were not able to get the PBS special last night on the East Coast (SC)…where would we go to get the DVD or video of that particular segment? We would like to see it….
    Hugs and got to run for now…we are rootin’ for ya, dahlink! Donna & Cathy

  8. Andrea says:

    Donna, the photo is of Merle. I really loved the way she looked in that picture. I hope you get a chance to see the show. In the meantime they are sending me a dvd of the show. I will see if I can post some of it here on the site. I have thought you and Cathy a lot lately and I pray for you both. Love, Andrea

  9. Donna Arnold says:

    I thought that must be her!!! What a beautiful soul I see in that photo!!! I am happy you ghot to go to the Memorial Service for her…..and equally glad you got a lot of unanswered questions answered…while it doesn’t make the hurt any easier, at least the constant “why’ “why “why” maybe has some comfort to it….soemtimes beautiful people are just so unhappy here on this earth, they go to another plane to do what is destined for them….my brother felt we go to different planes, fulfilling our destiny until we go to yet another…so I think I like that explanation….we live in each plane…..makes me comfortable, anyway.
    We think of you every day, lifting you up…and wishing for more of the better days than worse ones. We are anxious to see the PBS clip!!!! THanks…love, Donna & Cathy