July 23, 2011

The only other Arlene I ever knew was a bully. Tall and lanky, with mean eyes and a crooked smile, Arlene Bone would pick fights with everyone at school, including my little sister, whom I was sworn to defend. I once jumped across three rows of bus seats to land atop Arlene Bone, fists flying after she took a swipe at my sister. I won, according to all of the other passengers on the Mascoutah Junior High after school bus number 203. My anger scared even me. I was suspended from the bus for the remainder of the school year.

This Arlene was not like that at all. This Arlene smiled. She smiled a lot, especially when I talked about my kids, especially when I talked about how much I love my kids and about how much I don’t want cancer to define my kids or affect their childhood in any way. This Arlene smiled at me when I talked about how I want my kids to just be normal even though I am sick. She loved her kids as much as I love mine. Her smile told me that. Her smile made me brave, gave me courage.

And then she said, “I just want to live”. And that was the last I saw of the second Arlene I have ever met in my life. I had mentioned that I might visit her, in the hospital, visit her when she got that lung thing done that was supposed to relieve the stress of her breathing. But I didn’t visit her. And the stress of her breathing got worse after the procedure and there was a ventilator in there some where and then they tried to take her off of that ventilator and then she stopped. Arlene stopped breathing. And we are all left to fight the bully.

Fuck you cancer. I’d like to jump over three bus seats right now and rip your fucking hair out in a girl fight. I’ll black your eye and make you sorry you ever looked my way. Don’t touch my little sister, don’t touch my friends. You deserve every last bit of fight I have left in me, you bastard. A mother who loves her children more than she loves herself? A woman with a smile that reaches inside of a stranger and provides comfort and courage to a frightened heart? A fighter who just wants to live? You take that and so much more away from all of us? You are an evil bastard. I don’t want to simply survive you, I want you to pay for all that you have done. I want you to suffer. I want you to cry your eyes out, to live in fear, to stand in shock when you hear the news. I want you to try to hold back the fucking tears because you don’t want to scare your children. I want you to hurt like this for one fucking day you prick. Suspend me. Kick me off this fucking bus. I hate you. I hate you.

The last thing the second Arlene I ever met in my life said to me was, “I just want to live.” So Arlene, I am going let my heart stop racing. I will let my fists relax and I am going to allow the wild-eyed anger to subside and drift away. The fact that you stopped breathing doesn’t fade your smile in any way. It lives in me. I wont waste my life hating cancer, or being angry or scared. I too just want to live.

Arlene Peterson

This post is in honor of my friend Arlene, who had the warmest smile I think I've ever met. Godspeed, Arlene.


3 Responses to “Arlene”

  1. Betsy Happel Says:

    What a precious, Spirit-filled thank you note. Or good-bye note. Or whichever it is. Or is it both?

  2. ronniegaubatz Says:

    I guess you can say it is both.

  3. Bonnie Says:

    Ronnie anger is not at all what Arleen would wish for you. I know at this moment fear and anger are what you are feeling. I understand. I never meet your friend Arleen but my heart goes out to her family. Just from what you have told me about her I am pretty sure she would want you to not just carry on the fight but to fight even harder to do exactly what she and all in your group want more than anything. To live. So it is time for each of you to be even stronger, step up the fight for yourself, kick the ass of this monster called cancer, live every minute you have to the fullest and be thankful to God for every day. In doing this each of you will have honored Arleen’s memory and that smile on her face will live forever.

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