May 5, 2017: Orbits

Nothing screams hope more than planning for the future. On May 5, 2017, we didn’t text about doctors or Avastin (or bathroom blinds). Matt went back to work and I went back to writing a character sketch for a new novel I’d started writing. We talked logistics for the weekend. We looked ahead in the calendar and made plans with friends and family for August and September. We didn’t give one second of thought to what if.

When I looked back on our conversation to write this post, and thought about how all those plans fell apart, I marveled at how incredibly naive Matt and I were. Who doesn’t at least once ask themselves “what if” when there’s a terminal cancer diagnosis on the table? But then I really thought about it. Specifically, I really thought about Matt, and who he was.

A good friend of his recently emailed me and shared how he believed that Matt was the glue that had kept their circle of childhood friends from growing apart. He wanted to tell me because he wasn’t sure if I knew. I did know, because I witnessed it all the time: this phenomenal ability he had to keep people in his orbit, to reach old friends across oceans or months of radio-silence. Whether it was a phone call on his way home from work, a text message with a bad joke, or an invitation to a fantasy sports league, Matt didn’t let friendships just wither. Which sounds easy, but when real life revs up and distractions pile in…

On a post back in April I wondered what G and H would remember about their dad. They won’t remember his ability to bring people together; they are still too young to understand how remarkable and rare this skill is. And yet, I can’t help but hope that some part of that ability was passed down to them. It’s too valuable a quality to simply be lost.

As the narrator of our story, I take a lot of literary liberty in writing WE didn’t give one second of thought to what if. But in truth, I don’t know if the dark cloud of “what if” ever crossed Matt’s mind on May 5th, 2017. I suspect it didn’t, but I can’t be sure. All I do know for certain, is that on this day last year, Matt didn’t let a terminal cancer diagnosis stop him from reaching across oceans or months of radio silence to make plans with friends he hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. Brain cancer stole a lot from Matt, stole a lot of Matt really, but never that.

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