Maria, my old friend of many years was ill, refusing to eat. She told her caregivers that if I’d come to be with her, she’d start eating. I arrived the next day. She told me she had lived a long life and wanted to die but didn’t feel she could do so peacefully. I asked if there was anything I could do to help her feel calm in this last stage of her life.
In early August of 2006 I was still recuperating from a bout of leukemia—of being hospitalized, medicalized, and chemoized. Fatigue was my constant companion. Depression hovered, ready to overwhelm me at any moment. Doubts about my ability to recoup physically assailed me. Although I was increasing my stamina, strength and fitness by walking up hills around where I live, it wasn’t enough to lift my spirits. I decided I needed to climb Atalaya, 9200’, about seven miles round trip. It was one of the first mountain hikes I did after moving to Santa Fe in 2001 and remained a challenge even when I was well. I set a target date—the last Wednesday in August.
When I moved to New Mexico in 2001 I immediately joined a tennis club so I could meet people to play with. Finding tennis partners was not difficult. Playing through the pain in my neck and right shoulder, from too much tennis where I previously lived, was increasingly difficult. I contemplated not playing but I’d just bought two new pairs of sneakers and a bunch of tennis balls. When a workshop led by my tai chi teacher was offered, I signed up. After the workshop was over, I asked if he had any suggestions as to how I might play with less pain. It never occurred to me that I could play with no pain. “I have one,” he said. “Change your game.” What? I’d been playing for more than fifty years, with greater and lesser success. Now he wanted me to start over? It seemed too ridiculous to contemplate. Still, pain spoke for me. I signed up for a series of lessons.
Stories inspired by world tales to challenge and comfort.