It’s been over a year without activity here, and I owe you an explanation.
Late in 2020, Bell’s Palsy paralyzed the right side of my face, making it difficult to write due to loss of control over my right eye. Ominously, the palsy struck me suddenly on my late wife Jo’s birthday. Restaurants were just starting to reopen for outdoor seating. We got a few friends together on a patio down by the ocean. It was a cool and very windy night. Bundled up in winter clothes, we celebrated as best we could, buffeted by the breeze, relieved to be with friends after nine months of lockdown. I ignored the strange sensations from my face, not wanting to distract from the celebration. By the next morning, the entire right side of my face, from my forehead to my jaw, was numb and paralyzed. 2021 was going to be a difficult year, and that birthday would be my lovely Jo’s last.
In a few months, the worst of my palsy was over. But Jo’s health was deteriorating. By late April, she had difficulty breathing, and a CT-scan detected a mass in her chest. The moment we received the news together is seared into my memory. A look of fear and shock briefly showed in her face. Then, firm resolve. In the months that followed, she was in and out of hospitals, undergoing surgeries and treatments when she still could, while the cancer in her chest gradually destroyed her organs and increased her pain. We heard bad news and good. Her cancer was stage IV, but a new therapy was available, giving us some hope. A stent in her pancreas restored her ability to eat, but immediately afterwards she became paralyzed from her navel down, as the cancer attacked her spine. So bends the road through hell. I could tell so much more, but now is not the time.
One of my last tweets said “In woeful suffering, her beauty shines purer and finer. My first duties are to support her healing and ease her pain.” Nothing mattered more to me. Exactly one month later, I would watch as she took her last labored breath in the ICU, numb and uncomprehending. Why so beautiful a soul should endure so much pain, I will never understand. The mystery of evil weighed on both of us. In her suffering, she examined her life and recounted her sins to me, which seemed like trivialities. She hadn’t done anything worse than allow me to set out poison bait for the mice infesting the chicken coop. In her abdominal pain, she felt compassion for the pain she imagined the poisoned mice had felt.
I’m grateful that I could be present for her in all her suffering. I’m grateful for the compassion and skill of the doctors, nurses, and therapists who tried to help her. I’m grateful for the prayers and favors of friends, which encouraged us and helped us bear the worst with fortitude. I am grateful our love lasted and grew stronger to the end, and for those she left behind. I am grateful for the miracle of her courage and grace in the worst of circumstances, for the smile she managed to flash at me just before she could no longer breathe on her own. Without a trial, you never know how strong and pure your love can be. She saved her most precious gift to me for last: her lesson that love and courage are stronger than death. Never did she let go of her desire for life. Never did she give up hope. I will cherish my memories of her always.
After she was gone, I was a wreck for months. I felt my loss like a knife in the stomach, a black weight on my chest. I don’t have her strength and coping skills. My muse and inspiration left me. My writing seemed vapid and inconsequential. I looked for solace in diversions and fantasies, too often. But life is for the living, and life is nothing without purpose and determination. I’m back. Eggseed Press is open for business again. Let’s write!