Friday, December 26, 2014

Late Stage

I just want you to know I do not think of myself as a "dying person." You may call it dying, but I call it living -- until I am not. I am an accepting person. Today, I'm alive. Tomorrow, who's to say? I accept that. I accept the unknowing. 

Yes, it's unfair that I have a stage IV cancer and am not yet 50. Yes, there are sighs of sadness (cf., Joni Mitchell, "River"), contractions of grief, glints of anger. But my life has been rich in experience, not to mention protected from war, violence, famine, natural disaster, preventable disease. I have love, children, family, friends, community, freedom, security. All in a general context of blessings. 

I try hard every day to accept things as they are. Sometimes I'm extra tired, or have to acknowledge another limit, or trip over the fact that this is actually happening. Yet, as my daughter floated across the stage as a party child ballerina in the Nutracker, I was able to enjoy it with pure delight. I smiled when my son proudly helped make the sets and played Rudolph in the neighborhood play. Hardly a drop of maudlin then, or during the other rituals of Christmas. Best of all, my muse seems to be coming out of hibernation, or at least poking her head out. One night recently as I was lying awake, a practically whole poem came into my head, like a moonlit pearl. I'll share it with you now:

Late Stage
It's as if, each morning
the makeup artist comes
to render me a little
older, tireder, sicker
a line, a shadow, a waxy contour
in a cool palette
of bruise and moon
"What scene is this?
Where is the script?
What role do I have?
And how -- how should I
play it?
Someone! Whisper the cues…"
I may remove this mask
I may push against the pallor
with a steaming hot cloth,
or a walk in the brisk air
but it settles once again.
It's as if, each morning…
Rehearse, rehearse
one more rotation
around the axis
one more clatter of blades
around the frozen pond.
Day with its peopled rhythms,
night with its endless pockets
and muffled train song
Three sharp knocks
on the dressing room door
I rise from the chair at the mirror.
Tongue over teeth,
breathe in -- breathe out
I go on
-Elizabeth B. Randolph

So, do what you must for your own journey but please, do not despair over mine. Do not fuss over my itinerary or my seating arrangments. Just be with me, wherever I am. 


  1. Love and respect for you, Bets. -Val

  2. It's beautiful, Betsy. And as I read this, I thought, 'wow, I wonder who the author is?' Of course it was you. Of course it was amazing. Of course it made me cry. Big hugs and kisses to you.

  3. Dear Elizabeth...this is so beautiful. I'm Harry, social worker & good friend of Sarah Montgomery...she shared your blog with me this week. I hope it's okay to share your writing with my friend, Matthew in NJ...his glioblastoma just came back and I know your writing will make a difference in his life. I'd actually love to share your blog with other friends and you mind Elizabeth? Wishing you, Louisa and your kids peace, joy and comfort...Harry

    1. Harry, of course I remember you! And yes please do share with your friend Matthew -- peace and strength to him -- and any other friends and colleagues you like. That's why I made it a public blog, so share away. Thank you for taking the time to visit :)

  4. Dear Elizabeth,
    Patients like you are my inspiration to continue my research. I feel such a sense of urgency in understanding the pathology and developing personalized medicine for you and all my patients from the past, present and future. Thank you for being my muse when I am awake at night thinking about my research data and projects. -Christine

    1. Thank you for your kind words and your care Dr. C.

  5. I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Elizabeth. Although the world grew a little darker with her passing she will forever live on in our hearts.