We’ve been dealing with some bad news for the past several months. I haven’t said anything about it until now because I didn’t think it was my story to tell.
It concerns our dear friend and neighbor Gerald. Gerald has stomach cancer. He was diagnosed last March. In that short amount of time we’ve watched him descend from strength, resiliency, vibrancy, vigor — a man incapable of sitting still or refraining from making wise cracks — to a mere shadow, forced to lie down and be stuck with needles while enduring unspeakable pain as his life is robbed from him.
I confess that when Ellen, Gerald’s mother-in-law, broke the bad news to me last March, there was a part of me that thought oh, he’ll beat it. After all, isn’t that how the story is supposed to go? Lance Armstrong beat cancer. Millions of other people too. So why wouldn’t someone as full as life as Gerald? I know this is hopelessly naive but I guess I’ve been steeped in cancer success stories, which I suppose is natural since the flipside isn’t somewhere the mind wants to dwell. I figured the doctors would administer the chemo, give him the radiation, remove the parts they have to remove, and Gerald will be back to ferrying horses, buying and selling livestock, sipping bourbon and beating us all at cards by fall.
Except Gerald’s cancer has ravaged his stomach, ravaged his entire body in such a short amount of time that there might not anymore ferrying or buying and selling of livestock or card playing (though I wouldn’t put it past him to sneak in a sip of bourbon or two).
We’ve been told the prognosis is very grim and I’m having a difficult time imagining our little neighborhood without him. Gerald and his family were there for me all during Jake’s deployment to Afghanistan. He is the one who dug the hole and buried our precious dog Cowboy. He and Yvonne came over the night it happened to comfort me in Jake’s absence. Gerald is the one who jimmied my door open after June had locked me out. He got my truck inspected. He and Yvonne always gave great no nonsense parenting advice.
He’s played such a big part of our lives that I realized sometime yesterday that it is my story to tell. It is all of our story to tell. Anyone who has known this man has a Gerald story to share, and we should all proclaim it from the rooftops.
It’s funny, I’ve lived this long and Gerald is one of the few people close to me who has come close to death. I know I am lucky to be able to say that (knock wood). It’s a reminder that life is precious. None of us are promised tomorrow. I just wish it didn’t take the suffering of others to bring this lesson home.
We were lucky enough to visit Gerald in the hospital yesterday. He was in remarkably fine spirits: cracking jokes, talking about plans for his horse business, wanting to sell his truck, cracking a few more jokes. I was fortunate enough to be able to tell him to his face all that I have written here (only it wasn’t as coherent because I was sobbing when I said it). He hugged me and said, ‘Honey, don’t worry about me.”
The strange thing is, I don’t worry about Gerald. He has accepted with grace the hand he has been dealt and while is is so incredibly gut wrenching and painful to witness someone you love say goodbye (particularly for his wife and children) we know that when he goes he will undoubtedly rest in peace.
We love you, Gerald.
Thank you for being a part of our lives.