Friday, January 16, 2015


I am in the last days of not-knowing. On January 18th, 2014, Kevin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I'm sure I'll write more about this on the 18th. Right now I am in the narrowing window of daily memories of the before. Before we knew. When he was still at home, still in tremendous pain, still believing he had a treatable stomach ailment. I am in the before when I still thought Happily Ever After meant years and not days.

The calendar has become my dearest friend and greatest enemy. Every day brings a different set of memories, a different set of what-ifs. What if he'd gotten a CT scan earlier? What if we'd become vegetarian years ago? What if? What if?

In two days time I will no longer haunt myself (as much) with questions of saving his life. By the time Kevin was diagnosed the outcome was unavoidable with our current understanding of pancreatic cancer. I will instead contend with questions of treatment and action, nights spent at home, things unsaid. Did I tell him I love him enough? Did I fight hard enough? Did I wrest too much control away from him? Did I make the right decisions? Is there anything else I could have done? All of these questions haunt me. They are fuel in the fire of grief.

These questions, this life bound by the calendar and memories, are all part of grief. I am constantly transforming into someone I don't recognize. We all are transforming all the time, of course, but grief accelerates the process and makes it far more obvious. Grief is a crucible.

Kevin's diagnosis and illness were a crucible for us both. We were transformed. In grief I am transformed. I am becoming someone both more and less than who I was. This is as it should be; I wouldn't want to be the same person I was before. I would hope that I am learning something from this particular hell.

I find myself clinging to different metaphors throughout grief. They are helping me put words to what is all but indescribable so I can understand it, let alone write about it. Crucible works well.

Crucible (noun)
  • a pot in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature or melted
  • a severe, searching test or trial
  • a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions
It was only in reading its etymology that I really understood how apt this word is. Yes, I am enduring a test. Yes, I have made and will continue to make difficult decisions. But its etymology reminds me of something else about transformation.

Crucible: Late Middle English: from medieval Latin crucibulum ‘night lamp, crucible’ (perhaps originally a lamp hanging in front of a crucifix), from Latin crux, cruc- ‘cross.’

I am in the crucible. I am transforming under enormous heat and stress.
I am the crucible. I am the light in the night.

None of this lessens the pain. It just helps me remember that there is light in the midst of it.

(42 weeks. There are no answers in this 42. I miss you.)

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Oh Laura! So beautifully written - and your words resonate through every cell of me and my grief experience. Sending you much love.


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