I went over to her house to pick up some chairs on loan for our dining table. My Aunt Suzy wasn't using them, it will take me months to pick out chairs for our new table, and I like to get Curran out to say hi. I've mentioned my Aunt before - my mom's sister, the only aunt I've grown up close to, geographically speaking, who has been fighting ovarian cancer for six years. She had a beautiful drawing of a skeleton sitting out and I couldn't believe she drew it herself. Actually I could, she's good at a lot of things, art being one of them. As she pulled the drawing closer, she pointed where she had drawn arrows to all the parts in her own body where tumors have grown. She used the technical names of the organs, as you would expect a very conscientious woman would. A lump rose in my throat as she talked about it so matter of factly, like it was no big thing to go through your cancer records and make an illustration of the sick parts of your body that are designed to keep you alive. I didn't say much because it made me sad and I'm certain that as unbelieveably positive she is, it had to have made her sad too. She wiped a few treasured baby toys clean and played with my son and he smiled back at her. I thought of taking a picture because the moment felt important to me, even though I was just going by to pick up chairs, but she has been a supportive, encouraging and generous role model for me, and seeing Curran gaze at her with the affection I feel but infrequently express, was special. But I believe we can take pictures in our minds too, and I'll always hold that image. The drawing keeps popping in my head and I've been thinking about how we deal with grief - how to humbly empathize with someone I love who has been fighting for six long years. That terrible, cliche saying, "live like you're dying" (which we all are at some rate), what does that look like in a practical sense? Not in the hike a major mountain or skydive sort of way, but in the everyday. The small moments.
In this recent interview I read from Anne Lamott she answers a handful of questions about her new book and on life in general. She's speaking on self-consciousness here, but I love theses lines:
"It gets infinitely better as you get older. You’ve lost your parents and some friends, and you feel so amazed and grateful that you still have the gift of life. You figure out that what your butt looks like is 143rd on the list of what is meaningful here, during our brief stay. You throw stuff out of the plane that keeps you flying too low. And yet; and yet. It’s still a struggle."
I've wasted a good amount of time lately concerned about fixing up our house, my post-partum body, our "long term plan" but then I saw Suzy's drawing. What I wanted to tell her was that it's not over. Cancer hasn't won. I'm so proud of her and grateful for the person she has been to me in the thirty years I've been her niece. I have nieces and nephews of my own now, and I hope to be as good to them as you've been to me. This weekend a big group of family and friends are hiking to raise money and awareness for womens cancer research and to celebrate Suzy. It honors a remarkable woman. So, a cocktail. Cheers. Bottoms up. To the strongest fighter I know. May your plane be flying high.
BERRY GINGER COCKTAILS // Make 1 drink
Adapted from Bon Appetit
I know we're all into apples and squash and such but my car thermostat said 76' this afternoon and there are still berries at my farmers market. If you can get your hands on juicy, bright red berries, go for it. Thawed, frozen berries will give you the same pretty color with likely a little less flavor but it's still worth the cocktail, if you ask me.
Lemon Ginger Syrup
- 4 ounces peeled, chopped fresh ginger
- 1/4-1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4-1/3 cup agave nectar
Blitz the ginger in a food processor to form a coarse paste. Put it in a saucepan along with 3 cups of water and simmer for 30-40 minutes until reduced by half. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and strain it into a container. Stir in the lemon juice and agave nectar (I used roughly 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup agave. Adjust to your taste). This will make more syrup than you need but can be stored, covered in the fridge for two weeks.
- 3 strawberries (fresh or thawed frozen berries)
- 2 oz. tequila
- 2 oz. lemon ginger syrup
- glug of soda water
- ice and super thin lemon slices for serving
In your glass, cut up the berries and muddle them in the bottom of the glass. Fill it up with ice. Add the tequila, ginger syrup and a splash of soda water. Give it a stir, taste and add more of whichever you fancy.
Garnish with lemon slices and drink. I suppose you could make a pitcher of this for a party or shower just multiply each ingredients by about eight.