"Ann's Dahlias", mixed media by Kerry McFall
When I hear that a friend has a cancer diagnosis, it’s like a punch to my gut. I groaned out loud as I read the email that an image taken to figure out what was wrong with a runner’s hip revealed a uterine mass. And when I got my breath back, I kept reading: “She has her wonderful pragmatic attitude about it all…..”
Pragmatic: “Dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.” No sense crying over spilt milk. Let’s just get ‘er done.
Schmidt’s Garden Center newsletter was the next email in my inbox, and it was about dahlias. By coincidence, the textile art group we belong to had just been tossing around the idea of doing an exhibit about dahlias for the Canby Library. Right. Cosmic. Went to Schmidt’s, picked out a lovely dahlia and a plain clay pot. Brought it home and painted it. Chopped the hell out of some unsuspecting olives and made tapenade to take to our annual summer potluck. By the time the evening was over, a care package had been assembled by the group that included pork cutlets, carrot salad, gourmet bread, cupcakes, love, vows to help, and of course, the potted dahlia.
We’ve all done this before, organized the meals, made the quilts or the prayer flags, arranged and delivered the flowers, showed up to clean the bathtub or do the laundry, whatever it takes to get the friend and her family through. The difficult part is that even being pragmatic, there’s not much else you can do that doesn’t involve flowers, food, housework, or spreading a cheerful optimistic attitude. Remembering my own cancer treatment, it was hard to accept all that caring, all those offers of positive energy and prayers in my honor, all those dinners that I was too tired to chew. It took me quite a long time to get over the anger at being betrayed by my own body. I had just about come to terms with the reality that graciously accepting that caring (and all of those casseroles) was really more for my friends than for me, because they needed to do SOMETHING… when my husband called to say he’d just had a heart attack.
Talk about your pragmatism. There’s nothing like someone else urgently needing you to pull you out of a funk. And adrenalin helped a bit with fatigue, too, for a little while. We muddled through, got a new kitten to make us laugh, and now we’re both quite healthy and very grateful to be alive. We have evolved a form of pragmatism which took us on our European and African tour last year, because hey – life is short, eat dessert first.
So here ya go, Ann – a version of the flowers that you don’t have to water. Hang on to the knowledge that you’ve done a marathon, you are a very strong woman. And you have a lot of very strong friends who are here to do whatever it takes to help. Anything but Karaoke… well, maybe even that. And I highly recommend a kitten. Or at least one funny animal video every morning before breakfast!