“The Show Must Go On”

My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairytales of yesterday will grow but never die
I can fly – my friends

Great lyrics from an awesome band.  Queen released the album Innuendo in 1991, the year their vocalist and songwriter died of a bronchial infection due to AIDS.  This album included one of my favorite songs, The Show Must Go On, from which the lyrics above are taken.  Rather prophetic, don’t you think?  Or, maybe, simply a farewell message to his legions of fans.

People die every day.  (I know…duh!)  My point is that, regardless of the circumstances, those of us who know and/or love the newly passed must find a way to deal with the grief and continue on.  Taken from Freddie’s perspective, though, the lyrics take on a different meaning.  Hiding behind the make-up, pretending there’s nothing wrong, putting on the brave face for others while knowing they’re dying, maybe even wishing it would just end.

Inside my heart is breaking,
My make-up may be flaking,
But my smile, still, stays on!

It’s this aspect of the song that holds real meaning for me.  My mom died last year after almost a year battling lung cancer so I understand “the show” …acting like it’s easy to deal with the pain and advancing weakness so that everyone doesn’t know how bad off they are and so that they aren’t the center of depression when others are around.  It sucks!

I have great respect for those who find themselves in situations like Freddie’s or my mom’s and are able to continually put on “the show,” and while I wouldn’t prefer the other extreme …the woe is me, lying around bemoaning their situation, I would like to offer up that it’s okay to show the “cracks in the makeup.”  We don’t expect you to be rocks.

Here’s The Show Must Go On by Queen:

Army Wife: The Toughest Job in the Army

A year ago today, I was celebrating Veteran’s Day with a day off from the class I was in at Ft. Leavenworth. I was sitting at the desk searching for the video “We Were There” fairly early in the morning, the Kansas sun filtering in through the window that was propped open with a board to get a little air flow, composing an email to my dad who had served nearly thirty years in the Army. As I was reflecting upon the years of following my dad around the world, listening to Army recruiting jingles, and getting caught up in the patriotic spirit of the day, tears started to well up in my eyes –not unusual for me at moments like this.  It wasn’t long before my thoughts turned to my mom, who’d also been around the world as an “Army Wife: The Toughest Job in the Army.”  The night before, I’d gotten a call from her telling me that she’d been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, but that we were not going to be morose about it.  I cried there for a few more minutes, then composed myself and the rest of the email to my dad, hit send, and went downstairs to chat with my new friend from class and see where the day would take us.

My mom died just over three and a half months ago, not quite a year from when she’d gotten a double lung transplant, and about eight and a half months from when she’d been diagnosed with/notified about the cancer.

I miss my mom, and I guess I’ll miss her more as the rest of my family comes to visit this year.  My dad just came to visit for about three weeks and her not being here wasn’t too weird, but I’m guessing the holidays will be different.  I could be wrong.

It’s interesting as I read down the list of posts/statuses of my friends on Facebook.  It’s pretty easy to tell those who have served, are serving, were/are the spouse and/or dependent of a service member from those who don’t fit any of those categories.  Most Americans will post about thanking Veterans and those currently serving.  Those in the categories I described will usually include thanks for the families of the military, as well, because they know what it’s like.

I don’t know if Army Wife is tougher than being the soldier with boots on the ground, firing and being fired at, but it is a challenging occupation.  I am very proud of my dad’s service to our country and the sense of patriotism I have because of it.  I am also proud of my mom’s service to our country.  Great support at home made it easier for my dad to do what he had to do.

I love you, mom.  May you rest in peace.

“We are not going to be morose about this”

“We are not going to be morose about this.”

This being the stage four cancer my mother had just told me she’d been diagnosed with about three months after getting a double-lung transplant.  “Ok,” I replied and, at the time, I meant it.  The next day, Veteran’s Day, I found an old Army recruiting video, posted the link on my Dad’s FaceBook page, and started writing him a note to go with it thanking him for his service to our country and, without going into an more details, for being a great dad and role model.  While typing this out, I guess it hit me that my mom was told she had one to two years to live (even with chemo) and what would my dad do when she was gone.  I cried for a few minutes before finishing the note, sending, and heading out to meet a friend –I was already late.

I’ve spoken to my parents a few times since that day –not any more or less than normal, really.  They weren’t able to come visit as initially planned for Thanksgiving because they weren’t sure how mom would react to the chemo which she’ll be getting every three weeks.  Unless something changes, they aren’t going to make it up as hoped for Christmas and I’m not sure we’ll be able to make it down to visit them now, either.  Life doesn’t really give a rat’s butt about our wants and desires sometimes.

The other night I was driving home when “A Song for Mama” by Boyz II Men came on.  I teared up a bit thinking about my mom not being around anymore.  I also started thinking about the quote I led this off with and I thought “Well, why the hell not?”  Maybe I won’t be all weepy and sad around her, but I’m sure the couple times so far aren’t going to be the last times when the realization that I’m losing my mother will hit me, and at those times, I should be free to cry, be sad, etc., as needed.

Then I actually started getting a bit mad.  The immune system suppressors she’s got to be on for the rest of her life (due to the transplant) allow cancer to grow/spread more rapidly which may explain why about three months ago when they removed her old lungs they found a spot of cancer on one, but didn’t see any in the rest of her body, and now it’s stage four.  The oncologist wanted to start some chemo back when they found it on the old lung, but my mom/parents decided not to do so since they didn’t see any in the body.  Looks like the oncologist knew what she was doing, huh?

So, why the double-lung transplant?  Because my mom smoked from as long as I can remember until she was diagnosed with Emphysema back in the early 2000s –over twenty years.  I can still hear the barking smoker’s cough that would signal the beginning to my mom’s day for years.  I was still mad as I thought about how my brother and I would blow on her cigarettes to make them burn faster while they sat in the ash tray or give her a hard time about smoking and how we learned in school that it was bad for her health.  Maybe the cancer has nothing to do with the smoking since she’d been off the cigs for years due to the Emphysema and it’s just a seemingly unfair turn of events to go from the joy of getting new lungs to the news that you’ve got cancer.  Regardless, my mom is going to fight it.  She may profess a “C’est la vie” attitude, but she’s a fighter.  Maybe we’ll get lucky again, as with getting the double-lung transplant, but we’ll keep morose to a minimum.

One more thing still has me mad, though… my dumb-ass brother still smokes!

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