Lisa, Almost a Year Later 9/25/10
It has been almost a year since my sister Lisa died. Lise was 56. I am still having a hard time accepting the finality of her death. I often want to call her on the phone to discuss whatever is bothering me.
As probably anyone who knew Lise knows, she was a world class phone talker. She relished talking on the phone and I always liked getting her take on things. We talked daily. She did have many opinions. She told me what to do about everything and I was hardly alone in that department. I tremendously miss her wisdom and good advice.
I went down to Philadelphia last September to spend time with Lise. One morning i drove her to the hospital downtown so that she could get her chemo transfusion. She was not able to get the chemo that day because her white blood cell count was too low. I remember the conversation with her oncologist, Dr Mason. Lisa hoped to live until Molly and Lou graduated from college and high school respectively. We did not know there was no chance that was going to happen although I secretly thought it was a long shot.
Lise had also asked me to drive her to a federal building downtown that day. I drove her there, parked the car and waited in the car while she met her client. I remember how slowly and deliberately Lise moved as she walked from the car into the building. She was in obvious pain, walking at a snail’s pace. She was already having big trouble with ascites. I did not feel good about her going to see that client. She was not up to it but it did not stop her.
Lise had drive. She made up her mind she was going to that appointment. In retrospect, it was crazy she was still working. Yet, the positive was that it took her away from herself and her increasingly desperate situation. Cancer forces a grim recognition of imminent mortality. Work allowed Lise a reprieve, another focus.
It was pretty downhill from that point on. Lise was gone in less than a month.
I do hear her voice in my head. Lise had a wonderful way of personalizing. i was always “Boo-boo” to her. Not Jon or Jonny. The bond of history and common experience between siblings has to be one of the deepest connections there is.
I do not feel good about her last month. Not just that she was dying, it was my failing to tell her how important she was to me. Maybe I did that some and maybe presence counted too but when someone is dying they deserve total accounting. There is no tomorrow.
I do find myself dwelling on the unfairness. Why Lise? Why so young? Lise, of all people, did not deserve it. She was so good. She did not know how to handle people with bad intentions. I think she wanted to believe there were not people like that. It sounds crazy but Lise wanted everyone to like her. She had a hard time accepting that that could not happen.
Lise had an underdeveloped sense of anger. Even when she had a basis for the emotion, she could not get angry. I wish that had not been the case. There was something unhealthy about her lack of anger.
I have sought out a poem that captures some of my feelings. The best i could come up with was a poem written by Kenneth Rexroth, a poet Lisa admired. Lisa had looted my Collected Short and Long Poems of Kenneth Rexroth. It was always a joke between us about her taking my books. She always did it and denied it. She did have good taste in poets though.
FOR ELI JACOBSON
There are few of us now, soon
There will be none. We were comrades
Together, we believed we
Would see with our own eyes the new
World where man was no longer
Wolf to man, but men and women
Were all brothers and lovers
Together. We will not see it.
We will not see it, none of us.
It is farther off than we thought.
In our young days we believed
That as we grew old and fell
Out of rank, new recruits, young
And with the wisdom of youth,
Would take our places and they
Surely would grow old in the
Golden Age. They have not come.
They will not come. There are not
Many of us left. Once we
marched in closed ranks, today each
Of us fights off the enemy,
A lonely isolated guerilla.
All this has happened before,
Many times. It does not matter.
We were comrades together.
Life was good for us. It is
Good to be brave – nothing is
Better. Food tastes better. Wine
Is more brilliant. girls are more
Beautiful. The sky is bluer
For the brave – for the brave and
Happy comrades and for the
Lonely brave retreating warriors.
You had a good life. Even all
Its sorrows and defeats and
Disillusionments were good,
Met with courage and a gay heart.
You are gone and we are that
Much more alone. We are one fewer,
Soon we shall be none. We know now
We have failed for a long time.
And we do not care. We few will
Remember as long as we can,
Our children may remember,
Some day the world will remember,
Then they will say, “They lived in
The days of the good comrades.
It must have been wonderful
To have been alive then, though it
Is very beautiful now.”
We will be remembered, all
Of us, always, by all men,
In the good days now so far away.
If the good days never come,
We will not know. We will not care.
Our lives were the best. We were the
Happiest men alive in our day.