hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA


May 24, 2012

Poor Tom's Almanac: The gift of life is a gift indeed

I did not know my aunt had cancer until I saw her recently at a family gathering.

She showed up with a bandana around her head, was ashen in color and lethargic, though buoyant. She passed off a good front.

The woman isn't really my "aunt," though that's what everyone called her. She never married, yet she was everyone's Auntie Mame, everyone's tour de force. When she held court, everyone listened and obeyed. This time was no different.

The fact is, she didn't want to fuss about it, let alone get everyone all riled up over her condition. For her, pity would have been an albatross. Instead, she chose to keep her condition as subtle as others would allow.

"How are you doing, auntie?"

"Never mind how I'm doing, it's you that counts," she interceded. "Could be a lot better. But could be worse."

Auntie brimmed with optimism. She often told us that before you saw a rainbow, expect a downpour. Before a diamond sparkled, it was a raw stone.

Nobody in the room was quite sure how far along auntie was with her cancer. She had kept it pretty much under wraps, coping with the treatments, and putting her trust in God.

The dinner table was sagging with food. As custom prevailed, grace was said as hands were held.

"May I have this privilege?" auntie volunteered.

Unprepared, she went on to ask God's blessings for these "gifts which we are about to receive, the food we are about to eat." She went on to praise the children, all the good that represented our lives, the bounty provided by family, and to enjoy the good that's often taken for granted.

By today's standards, auntie still had a future ahead of her. To see her nieces and nephews graduate high school, perhaps see one or two secure a college degree. And if fate allowed, a wedding would be nice. But each day would be a gift.

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