The last Christmas was bittersweet, but infinitely more sweet than bitter.
After a 21-year battle with breast cancer, we knew that it would be our last Christmas with my sister-in-law.
She was diagnosed when our children were in pre-school, just two years after she and her family emigrated to the U.S. In those early days, her most urgent hope was to see her husband and kids settle into their new home and make a circle of solid friendships to grow in
She was well. Then came high school, when her cancer metastasized to her spine. She prayed to see her son and daughter graduate. Her cancer slept quietly until both had graduated from college. A year ago, when both kids had settled into good jobs and established their own homes, the cancer awoke and treatment options dwindled.
Sue had two final goals; to celebrate Christmas one more time, the way we have always celebrated it, and to return to Ireland one more time to hold our newborn grand-niece.
So often, the loved ones of my patients say to me, “If only we had just one more….” If only we could savor one more anniversary, holiday, trip to that special place. My family was blessed with that “One More Christmas.” and we relished it.
The Christmas tree sparkled in its usual corner. The fireplace crackled in the living room. There was turkey, two kinds of potatoes — it was a lavish spread, just as ever, yet we savored it for longer.
Plum pudding. Trifle. Dessert was the same, yet only sweeter. Gifts more elaborate and carefully chosen, because we know they would be the last. Then, the singing began.
Sue made it back to Ireland. She saw the people she wanted to see and relished every moment. She held baby Azima. Her home-going was just the same as always – except different. She returned to find that there was no more chemotherapy to try. Her husband called for Hospice.