It’s hard to buy a card for someone who likely won’t live to celebrate many more birthdays. But today I found myself standing in the card aisle trying to do just that.
The “getting old” joke cards? Not so funny. The “we’ll be friends forever” cards? Depressing because “forever” seems like an awfully short proposition in this case. And the suggestive or “party hardy” cards? Well, I imagine it’s difficult to think much about either sex or alcohol while undergoing chemo.
So, armed with my innocuous, desperately-selected “all I got you was this card” choice, I arrived at the party in honor of my friend who continues to fight a brave battle with cancer. Though no one mentioned it, the spectre of the disease hung over the group gathered to await her arrival. We talked; we snacked a bit. But the only ones who seemed to be oblivious to the underlying seriousness of the situation were the kids who immediately adjourned to the back yard intent on coming as close to the sky as the trampoline could take them.
To her credit, my friend managed to pull of looking surprised when she came in, though I don’t buy it considering her husband evidently made some pretty lame excuses as to why they should drive around a bit following her birthday dinner. That, and the multitude of cars parked outside their house likely gave it away. But I’m just guessing.
Surprised or not, though, with her arrival, the mood shifted. The pall of cancer that had cast a shadow over the event while we waited lifted. Suddenly people didn’t seem so intent on talking about anything other than cancer, and treatment, and loss. Forced conversations dropped by the wayside as people began laughing, visiting about their plans for Easter, and wishing our guest of honor a happy birthday. The candles were lit; the song was sung. And, somehow, things seemed like they were going to be okay.
It’s my fervent hope that she lives to receive many, many more birthday wishes and that she will have the opportunity to think more about cake than about chemo. And, right now, having watched her surrounded by friends and family, glowing with the pleasure of seeing how many people care, I have faith that it might just work out that way. Because she deserves for all her wishes to come true.