I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Laura in her own words, followed by a few of mine

I've been going through emails Laura and I exchanged over the years. I found some moments where she spelled out her attitude toward life very directly, and thought I'd pass them on. These are excerpts from six or seven letters--don't try to read them all as one direct narrative.

Laura in her own words:

Some people have bad credit, some people have addiction, I have this health thing. It has been my greatest curse and my greatest blessing all rolled up into one. I got to see who my people are, and are not. Cancer has made me a very positive person.
As far as my spiritual beliefs go, I know there is a source whether you want to call it God or something else I believe its all the same thing. I was raised Catholic and understood pretty early on that what I believed didn't seem to fit in that box well. I've considered joining a church for the community aspect, and if I ever really got around to that it would most likely be Unitarian or similar. Above all I believe in ethics. You do the right thing because its the right thing to do, not because God is looking and taking notes. I believe the source is in all living things a part of the network of what is true and right in everything. I've never blamed or pointed fingers for what happened to me. I know that it was some part of me that needed the "pruning" in order to actually live. I had to get back to what was true and right in my life. Cancer forced that into the foreground for me. One never gets a situation that they can't handle in life, and I'm flattered I was handed such a bucket full.
The gift that grows out of misfortune is compassion and wisdom.
Sometimes I get very excited when I think of what will happen between now and this time next year. Great things can happen. Life is often like the fruit on the branch, it ripens and becomes sweeter.
We finally had rain last night. I know what you mean when you say that rain is lovely. It is lovely in every way.
Much like the Buddha laughing with tears running down his face, life is beautiful and tragic all at once.
As far as what kind of investment I am, we just have a little more information than the average person as to what could claim me in the end. I get what anyone gets, one lifetime. I consider the time I am with you as time well spent. The best medicine for me is to be able to live my life. I want at least 20 years. My 50th birthday will be a triumph, no "over the hill" black balloons for me. I anticipate feeling like a gold medallist on that day. Any other outcome to my life is too sad to contemplate. I suspect in the meantime I could be in need of a hand to hold from time to time, things can get scary and bravery is easier in numbers. If it comes to that I'll let you in on it.
James here again: I considered posting only part of that last paragraph. It is sad to contemplate, and sad that she didn't make it to fifty. But when she went, we were holding her hands. We also were holding her feet--there were five of us in the room, we all had a hand on her somewhere, I think. She was right, of course, that the numbers made it easier, at least for us, and, I hope, for her.

But, it was pretty easy to decide to leave it in, given that she especially knew that tragedy and beauty weren't mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, intertwined in ways not immediately obvious to many people.

It's been just over a week since she left us. Tonight is my first night alone in the house. All of her relatives have returned home, Simon and Veronica have gone to live with their emergency backup parents (divorce does have an oddly positive side effect, in this case), and even her cat, Yoshi, is gone away. I'm left with just memories and lots of clutter. Dying flowers from the funeral are all over the house. By all rights, this should be the saddest night of my life.

Instead, I'm trapped in this borderline psychotic mix between regret and excitement. I keep thinking of things I could have done differently with Laura. Should I have asked her to marry me earlier, instead of waiting so long into her illness? Could I have given her better advice on her treatment? There was a time early in her occurance when she ditched a cancer drug due to the side effects, even though the drug was still showing signs of working. I respected her decision--she was the one having to suffer the side-effects--but at the time I wanted to argue her choice, and encourage her to tough it out a few more months. Would she still be around if I'd given her that advice? Or would everything have just been pushed off a few months more? And the Wednesday when I left her in the hospital--if I'd stuck around through the night, could she have found any additional strength in my holding her hand to make it through to morning? And would it have changed anything in the long run?

Mixed in with all the regret and sorrow, though, is the realization that I'm entering a new chapter in life. It's a strangely giddy feeling. I honestly have no idea what can happen to me in the next year. But I face the year a little wiser, and perhaps, yes, a little more compassionate. I've lived for a long time with the dread of what would come next. And, bluntly, the worst that could happen has happened. Things get better from here.

And, even here, in a lonely house, there's all those flowers, still colorful, still fragrant, even as they fade.

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