The things I wish I’d said
When Robin passed away two years ago, I wanted to write her a love note. I sat down several times to pen some memories, but it was too soon. I couldn’t get out what I wanted to say without it sounding cliché or just plain sad. That’s not who she was; she wasn’t sad in life and I didn’t want to make her sad in death.
We were lucky in countless ways, the smallest of which was that she had a long goodbye. Robin’s August 2010 Stage 4 Colon Cancer diagnosis could have robbed her before the seasons change. But the seasons did change, and while I’m sure she never forgot about the cancer ravaging her body, sometimes I did. It was easy not to dwell on it, because she never did. Even when her insides were upside down, she came to family gatherings and enjoyed good food and red wine. She would wink at me and tell me she’d pay for it later.
Robin never allowed her cancer fight to be an elephant in the room. You could ask her anything, even the hard questions, and she would answer and move on. She did pitch perfect imitations of her doctors. They had become like family to her. She remained hopeful and grateful throughout those harrowing two years. Hopeful that research, like that pioneered at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, would “catch up” with her cancer. Grateful to the doctors who never stopped fighting to have her participate in the latest trial or eligible for the newest promising exploratory drug.
About a year before she died, she called to tell me about her latest hospital stay. She said she thought it could have been the end of her road. She made me promise I’d watch out for her sweet daughter if she didn’t beat it. I thought I was being reassuring by telling her of course I would, but she’d get better and it wouldn’t be necessary. I wish I’d just listened.
I wish I’d told her how much I loved her girlish voice. It didn’t matter how many birthdays she celebrated, she had the voice of a 13-year-old.
I wish I’d told her I always looked forward to seeing her.
I wish I’d told her I admired her for making her own way, having been on her own since age 16.
I wish I’d visited her frequently, as I know she would have driven the 2.5 hours to my house every week had our circumstances been reversed.
I wish I’d realized she may not have had a handle on everything, as it always appeared she did.
I’ve run through our last conversation endless times. She hated being photographed, yet she let me take this one. To this day I don’t know why I did because nothing in my conscience mind knew it would be our last.
Robin would say I was brave because I climb mountains, but I don’t possess a fraction of her bravery. She stared down her fears. She never stopped hoping, laughing, volunteering and living.