But all good things must come to an end. On Wednesday we awoke in the hot darkness of the wee hours to load the bags into the waiting taxi, break down the travel crib and carry our two sleepy little boys out to their car seats for the two hour drive over bumpy, dusty roads to the airport. After a long but blessedly smooth day of travel, we returned home to frigid temps, one very happy cat and a driveway coated in a slick crust of ice. The next morning, just after I'd packed the children into the car for school, my mom-in-law phoned to say that she was heading back up to Vermont where her younger sister, Maggie lives.
|Our beautiful Maggie.|
|Maggie and her love enjoying the sun in Maine after her first stem cell transplant which led to a 6-year remission.|
|Maggie and her friend, Helen, swimming out to the seals during her remission.|
Even during the many punishing rounds of chemo when her immune system had been zeroed out, she'd be out in her garden with her mask on digging in the dirt despite the fact that her doctors had expressly forbidden it. Having her hands in the earth made her feel alive and that's a pretty powerful medicine.
|Maggie planting peas in her garden in the early spring.|
Below is her artist's statement for Gone To Seed - I find it very profound and moving.
In the late Fall of this year I hiked the familiar woods trails where every Spring for the past 30 years I have collected Vermont’s ephemeral flora. The transformation of the plants was so dramatic, from tiny shapes of starry pale flowers and their new born leaves clasped tightly around their stems to ungainly bug-eaten golden leaves bearing red and blue fruits, oozing their seed and juices into the soil and decaying leaf matter. What a metaphor for life, for my life, as I struggle with terminal cancer, birth, death and rebirth.
-Maggie Lake, December 2014
I did not get to see Maggie more than once or twice a year but we had a wonderful email correspondence. I felt that I could share pretty much anything with her - absurd or awful anecdotes from my daily life, stories about my kids - both funny and frustrating, recipes I liked, gardening questions, fears and insecurities I was struggling with, thoughts about art and life, etc., I will treasure her emails which were notoriously lacking in capitalization and full of the vivacious, appreciative, no-nonsense, humorous, generous, and loving spirit that marked her life. It gives me a queer, hollow feeling in my gut to know that there won't be any new ones arriving in my inbox.
Below are a few bits from messages she wrote me while wrestling with terrible physical pain and the tremendous uncertainty of not knowing how soon her life would end.
"i still love life and the big fat golden quinces out the window begging to made into membrillo. delicious with goat cheese on a good cracker. better go pick em."
"i think the world of beautiful things is the answer to all problems; loving your kids, your partner, your friends and family. loving the growth of gardens and plants and the miracle of seasons. sharpening your awareness of the wind, sun on your face, the feel of dirt when you pull weeds, the beautiful smallness of life. i will so miss it. i love you m"
"i am getting into the tub. bath, bed and beyond. love you m"
Here's to you, sweet Magpie, wherever you are. I hope you have found the most wonderful peace.