We got bad news last night about Axel’s cousin who has just declined further surgery for a mouth cancer that appears determined to kill her; it is the second person who I have folded into my heart over the last two weeks. She is right there next to my ex-husband. Both have run out of options. Both are, I am told, in a lot of pain, even with pain meds.

I have known my share of pains but the thing about pain is that when it is gone, the bodily memory of it is gone too. I have only vague recollections of being in great pain. The recollections I do have are of the surprise about the intensity and the persistence of the thought that this pain is going to be forever. But they are not. My pains have always been post-operative and musculo-skeletal pains. These are temporary, the kind we forget.

They who are dying from inside are in my heart right next to the people who were at the wrong place in the wrong time in Kabul and paid with their lives. They were there to help the Afghans – I don’t think anyone forced them to be there. Going to Afghanistan now feels like playing Russian roulette. If I’d be invited to go back to Kabul, even for a very short trip, I now think I’d decline, albeit with great reluctance. I do want to be there with my Afghan colleagues, but in the past we were never a target; now I am not so sure anymore.

Because of all this bad news my thoughts have been somber. I have been trying to imagine what it is like to know that you are being destroyed from the inside, from your own cells going rogue; to know that there is no ‘same time next year.’ What would I be preoccupied with, other than putting my affairs in order? Would there be people I wanted to see a lot, books to read, movies to see? Or would I want to write, be in beautiful places, surrounded by my favorite people? Not knowing this I am at a loss as to how I can be of use to them.

All this put things in perspective: the recovery of my shoulder, the worry about the other shoulder which is cranky from over-use, the enormous amount of design work that needs to happen before my next trip and the mess in my home office which I try to deal with before it overwhelms me again and again.

Maybe it is no coincidence that I made a dish called “Dutch Babies’ for breakfast in honor of all that is good, sweet and innocent and of course my new grand-nephew Wiebe Berend.

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May 2015
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