There are things that stay with us. Some are words or smells or sounds. But there are also moments, people, bonds.
It has been four years since my cousin died and nearly a year since my uncle died. Both of cancer, different kinds.
It is sometimes hard to think about the future, knowing they won’t be there.
I’ve talked before about how I was able to bond with my cousin and his wife, when they would visit for his treatments. We would go out to lunch. And in the midst of their ordeal, they took the time to see how I was doing. This was when I was at my sickest, when I didn’t yet have a diagnosis.
And my uncle was my link between my rheumatologist and I, and he would provide me with invaluable advice.
There have been so many times over the past year when I wanted to call or e-mail him, to ask him what he thought I should do.
But I couldn’t. I can’t.
It’s hard to lose the people who you feel understood you the most.
It’s the bond of someone that understands the fear and confusion, who understands what it’s like to be sick and in pain.
And over the years, there has been some measure of survivor guilt. Why am I still here and they aren’t? For those who have never experienced this, this is not a suicidal ideation. It isn’t a matter of me not wanting to be here. It’s a matter of wondering why the dice were rolled and went one way rather than another.
So yes, part of the reason I miss them is selfish. It’s because they aren’t here to provide advice and support. But there’s also the fact that there is so much they won’t be able to experience; my cousin’s children’s bar and bat mitzvahs, their high school graduations, college, marriages; my uncle won’t get to see my cousin graduate from medical school.
In the depths and quiet of winter, I find myself thinking about my cousin and uncle more and more. It might feel like renewal won’t come until spring, but renewal happens when we want it to. Maybe because it’s a new year, yes. But maybe because we simply want to get a fresh start, and this can happen in any part of our lives, at any time.
For me, the new year means reflecting on some parts of my past, like the important people who have impacted my life, especially my life with illness, but who are not here any more. But it also means trying to forget other parts of my past that are holding me back, like failed relationships.
I have goals for 2013, some simpler than others. I want to try and kick my diet pop habit, I want to stop eating French fries at restaurants, I want to kick my addiction to pop tarts, and I want to read at least a book a week. I want to finish my dissertation and start a life together with my boyfriend. I want to write a memoir. I want to take control of my GI issues, which have really plagued me the last few years. And I want to find a treatment that works for my lupus AND RA.
The past few years haven’t been easy. There has been love and there has been loss. There have been extreme highs and extreme lows. But more than anything, there have been people who have marked each moment for me. These moments strung together are the story of my life. And without them, I wouldn’t have much of a story.
So on the path of renewal, we must reflect on the past in order to get a (somewhat) clear picture on the future. It is only by acknowledging our struggles that we are able to succeed.