the days

November 15, 2011

I told the girls about the days, the ones I have left and the ones I that I do not. My sister came to help and she sat in the big chair by the fireplace, the one covered with the dog hair. I worried for her jeans and I wondered if she planned to be anywhere else after this conversation. Doug was there too and before my sister arrived he made a fire in the fireplace and I sat by it and he brought me a glass of wine. He smelled good and he sat down next to me and because he sat so close I felt safe for a moment and I just cried. The tears puddled on the floor between my sock feet and Doug told me we were doing the right thing by telling them, about the days, the ones I have left and the ones I do not.

And the girls joined us in the living room, Doug and my sister and I and it must have seemed strange to them as it was to me because my sister doesn’t just drop by on a Saturday night without her kids. And I worried that I might not say what I needed to say and my sister might have made the drive for no reason and the fire was going out and it needed more wood but none of us moved because there was this important thing that needed to be said and until someone said it this thing just hung in the room sucking out the oxygen and making us all feel uncomfortable. I began to speak and like I had done on two other occasions, my initial diagnosis in February of 2009 just a few days after Erin’s birthday and then again in October of 2010 when the darkness came back and I knew it was bad because I couldn’t run the Halloween Fun Run that Mattie and Allie and I had planned to do together. It was those times that I lined them up on the couch and I talked about my breast cancer. But unlike the time near Erin’s birthday and the Halloween fun run, this time there was no talk about beating down cancer, no mention of a fight or a victory. This time I spoke of the days, the ones I have left and the ones I do not.

My voice cracked as I explained that I am not giving up and that there is this new chemo we will try and there are three or four others we can try after this one lets us down, and that it’s not uncommon for a drug to work for a while and then stop working like mine had and then I told them how the tumors in my lungs were growing again and next I spoke of the days, the three hundred and sixty five or so that I had left and I ignored that they were crying by now because Doug held Erin and my sister held Mattie and Allie had climbed into my arms and soon we were all holding each other and crying and I kept talking about the days. I explained that these three hundred and sixty five or so that I had left were a gift that we have been given from God and that this gives us time to talk about a thousand beautiful little things and things they always wanted to know from me and things they needed to hear to be okay after I am gone and advice about boys and babies and school and beautiful things and song lyrics and faith, a thousand beautiful little conversations. We’ve been given a gift.

And by now my sister sat on the floor in the even bigger pile of dog hair and I still worried for her pants and hot coals remain in the fireplace and it glows behind her shoulder and over Mattie too who was lying in my sisters arms and I continued to talk because I had practiced in my mind all the things I should tell them when I tell them about the days, the ones I have left and the ones I do not. So I told them about the the days I do not have and the days I won’t be there physically with them, the days when they graduate or get married or give birth to my grand baby. And I told them that I believe with my whole heart that I am with them on those days too. I will be there watching over all of those moments that the days I have left in this world won’t allow me to see in the flesh. I will be there either way, with them, always, on the days when I am gone. And my tears puddled on the floor just like they had earlier with Doug and the wine and the fire and I thought about what a good father he is and how much he loves me and the girls.

A long time went by and we talked more about the support the girls have in our church and in our family and with our close friends. I asked the girls if they thought it was good that we told them about the days and they all said yes and later that night Erin wrote in her journal about this conversation and about ignorance not being bliss and so I felt like they understood why I told them and how important the days are, the ones I have left and the ones I do not.

Now I watch them closely and I ask too many times if they are okay and if there is anything they need to talk about and I watch and I wait for any one of those thousand beautiful little conversations to come about. And when we were in church this past Sunday I squeezed their hands tighter and a little longer than usual and we all just let the tears run down our cheeks because we are all still getting used to the idea of the days, the ones we have left and the ones we do not.


15 Responses to “the days”

  1. Michelle Reynolds Doherty Says:

    Ronnie, I have no words right now. Anything I say would just sound like noise and pale in comparrison to what my heart is feeling for you right now. All I have to offer you are my prayers, prayers for comfort, prayers for guidance, prayers for wisdom, prayers for strength. Even on your darkest days, I belieive God will continue to hold you in His loving arms and use you to be a vessel of his love and grace. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I will lift you and your family up believing that our God is the ultimate healer, provider and friend.

    Much Love,

  2. kate Says:

    I will read this anytime I forget to be thankful for the beauty of life. Even in your darkest moments you find a way to make others feel safe and inspired. Thank you.

  3. Tami DeLand Says:

    You, girl, are something else. I love your courage and heart. We will see each other again.

  4. krista horn Says:

    Ronnie, you are such a brave woman with a powerful way with words. I think of you often, and pray that there is a light

  5. Laura Says:

    you simply amaze me. i don’t have words. just tears.

  6. Patty Kious Says:

    Ronnie — as the above lady said YOUR ARE SOMETHING. I have always known that but now I am just so proud to even know you and proud of everything you do and stand for.

  7. sharonsdaughter Says:

    I will not let go. I have never let go and I am not starting now.

    I will celebrate the days I have left. I will send stupid jokes, and little known facts via text. I will learn to run and carry you with me. I will celebrate
    until I have to mourn.
    And even then, I will not let go.

    If I get the days, I will see your girls marry, and have babies and I will sing them the be dot de da de ton doh doh doh song that Mattie and Ali cried until they heard. And I will make them picture books of Ithaca and Vathi. I will include the pictures of the younger us, the ones that worried about things that do not matter in the face of this.

    Pictures of you eating ice cream on Vathi, the ice cream with the voodoo graphics on the package, when we bought peanuts and drank too much and couldn’t find our apartment and we waundered the streets yelling for it. And the day we went into the old church, you there standing in front of 1000 year old fresco’s, and all we could do was laugh at the church key holder’s name (Your ass amo). Literally.

    The day we left and I stood behind you on the ferry and you watched Vathi fade into nothing, and Doug stayed on Ithaka and waited until he couldn’t see you anymore as you waited on the ferry. I was right behind you. I am right behind you now.

    I have a million little moments in my head and my heart. When you found out you were having babies and I cried as I am crying now, and when they were born and Mattie swam the wrong way and the Doctor had to go get her, and Doug put the oxygen on your face and you wanted to kill him because you were choking…

    I will share the stories and I will love you and I will not let go. And today and tomorrow and everyday I have you I will celebrate
    until I have to mourn,
    and screw it,
    I will celebrate then because I got to have you even for a little while.

    And I will help Mama and Tracy and the hundreds of others with the girls and with Doug and with everything.

    Because Sparky, I am never letting you go.

    I love you.

  8. Margrett Patton Says:


    I believe you are the strongest person I have ever been fortunate to meet. You and your family are in my prayers. God bless you! You are amazing.

  9. Terry Ross Says:

    Sparkle. Yes you, you are appropriately named as you sparkle brighter and more beautiful than any gem. It is with tears and pride that I write this note. Keep on shining – we can all feel it. Your light inspires and reminds us all that it takes vulnerability to truly live wholeheartedly. Love, Terry

  10. Jaylene Davis Says:

    I came across a post from Laura and looked for your blog. You are so strong to have the talk with your girls. I am proud of you. My grandma had breast cancer and the one single moment I remember the most was “the talk”. It made me realize how much I love and respected her. It also allowed us to be able to have those little conversations – honest, truthful, loving. You are a strong woman and I love you for what you did for your girls.
    God speed my friend,

  11. MaryAnn Russum Says:

    My Mom died nearly 18 years ago, on November 24th, and did know about her days, the ones she had left and the ones she did not. She became critically ill after various complications and then the doctor discovering she had Acromegaly, an abnormality of the pituitary gland. It is a slow and unnoticeable disease and though they did try to treat it, it was too late. In 1993 in February, she was given a year to live. I regret our decision not to tell her that she had a limited time to be on this earth but when i read your blog, it reinforces my knowing that my Mom still watches over me and is always with me in spirit. I wish I had appreciated more of that precious time with her and had been able to talk to her about her days. I regret not being there more for her when my Dad was her primary care-giver. But most of all, I just miss her; 18 years doesn’t change that fact. But my take-away from your writing is to appreciate this and every day that I have – right now – in the moment. Because after all, none of can truly know the number of days we have left. Thank you Ronnie for teaching each of us to appreciate our lives and loved ones. And God bless you in your journey.

    Much Love and care,
    Mary Ann Russum

  12. Francine Says:

    I love you cousin!

  13. keri Says:

    Wow, the breadth of strength and love in you, Erin, Mattie, Allie, Doug, Tracy, your mom….it’s bigger than the whole world.

  14. I found your blog from you writing about my friend Alison. You are an amazing writer!!! I wish Alison would have written more either through “Caring Bridge, email or a blog”.

    I am so sorry for what you and your family are going through. I have no words. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

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