The last summer of Rochelle's life is hard to recall in detail. There was an awkward rhythm in my life, of attempting to maintaining a sense of normalcy in my home life while juggling trips to the hospital at lunch or after work nearly every day. At the end of the day, there wasn't a lot of time for me. My house and pets suffered, my work suffered, and my soul was taking a beating. Looking back, I know I was just in survival mode, but the specifics of that time in my life are muddled and blurry.
Since I was a little girl, I've always loved to read. I started when I was about four, and never stopped. When my mom came to pick me up from day care when I was five, I was reading stories to the other kids. There's a comfort and solace that reading brings me, letting my brain settle into a story, and lessening my worries of the day for a few minutes. Even if I just get a few minutes of reading in, it helps the day feel complete.
I read several books over the course of those weeks between early July and October. It's only now, looking back that I see the common themes and threads of cancer, friendships, and the process of dying that they shared, and realize how much they helped me process all the fears and emotions that came along with Rochelle's cancer and death.
In one of the books I read that summer, a character was battling cancer. She had retreated to her childhood summer home on the beach with her sister and her best friend, and the things that each of them were facing in their lives and relationships followed them there. One passage in the book keeps coming back to me, even now, years later. The main character, as she found out that she had cancer, was a master list maker. But the day of her diagnosis all her lists disappeared. From that day forward, there were really only two lists in her world. The list of things that no longer matter, and the list of things that matter.
The list of things that no longer matter.
The moment your priorities change and your world becomes so simple and so difficult in the same breath. When you hear the word, "cancer." And weeks later, when you are laying next to your best friend, whispering to her that it's okay to let go and leave the pain of this world behind, just hours before she does.
In the years since Rochelle passed away, when life's troubles start to weigh me down again, when my job gets a little stressful, when people I don't care about say mean things to me, I ask myself, "Does this matter?" The answer is almost always no. The typo, the mucked up address file, the name-calling psycho don't matter. They all go on the list of things that no longer matter. Every time. In the totality of my life, these things do not matter. They do not get to suck up my energy and steal my happiness.
The list of things that matter to me is a short and sweet list, and it doesn't have actual "things" on it. It's simply a list of my people. It's love and laughter, peace and contentment, memories made and memories still to come. That's all I need. What's on your list?