Saying Goodbye

Sunday, January 18, 2015

We spent last week in the heat and bright sunshine of Costa Rica, spending as much time as possible immersed in the water and drinking cold, sweet agua de pipas through bamboo straws. Our five-year old was wild for both the water and the young coconuts and managed to amass a sizeable collection of bamboo straws that he insisted on bringing home (they're now sitting in a plastic bag on the rug in the middle of his floor where they will stay until I move them.) Our two-year old was, unfortunately, terrified of both the pool and the ocean but he lapped up the attention from his aunt and uncle and his grandparents and put away astonishing amounts of food between frequent dips in the yellow, plastic baby bathtub I bought at the little supermercado in town.

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.
I've written about Maggie here before but in case you missed it, she's been battling lymphoma for the past 10 years, undergoing two brutal but temporarily effective stem cell transplants and countless rounds of chemo and radiation. After exhausting the last of her treatment options - a drug cocktail including a new drug called Ibrutinib - this fall, her tumors had spread and grown at a frightening pace, she was having more and more difficulty breathing and was often in unbearable pain. It took her some weeks with help of hospice at home, before finally departing her poor, little, battle-scarred body.

Maggie and her love enjoying the sun in Maine after her first stem cell transplant which led to a 6-year remission.
I can't tell you how much I will miss my beautiful aunt. I loved her from the first time I met her almost 15 years ago, just a few months after I began dating her nephew who would eventually become my husband.

Maggie and her friend, Helen, swimming out to the seals during her remission.
She was full of life - downright irrepressible. When she was well she took care of people as a nurse practitioner at the Brattleboro Free Clinic, hiked, biked and swam, helped her friends tap and boil sap to produce hundreds of gallons of pure amber maple syrup, raised and slaughtered her own chickens and lambs, grew, picked and canned enough food for an army, collected plants for her beautiful botanical artwork, cooked and baked and cleaned, and generally showered her partner and kids and sisters and all the people in her life with affection.

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.
In the week before she died, she shocked her family by calling on some unknown reserves of energy to finish framing the gorgeous, new prints for her final show, "Gone To Seed" that opened last week at Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts. Then she amazed yet everyone again by making the trip down to Brattleboro to see the show hung the day before it opened. She had to tour the gallery in a wheelchair with a barf bucket on her lap but it filled her with happiness to see her work writ large on those clean, white walls.


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.

13 comments:

Art and Soul said...

This is very beautiful Eve. I am sorry for your loss. This post made me want to live more fully, and the one quote at the end flooded me with emotion. Thank you for your honest and loving sharing. ~Danielle

Anonymous said...

I have thought of Maggie often since reading the post about the lentil salad. What an amazing woman and what a profound loss for you and your family.
You are blessed with wonderful memories and Maggie's wisdom.
Take care.

cmd said...

What a lovely person to have had in your life. So sorry for your loss.

Nelly Chepkong'a said...

This is a Beautiful tribute, she's in a wonderful peaceful place.

Beth said...

Eve, this is such a beautifully written, moving tribute. I'm so happy you had someone like Maggie in your life, and I'm so, so sorry you no longer will. You, your husband, and the rest of your family are in my thoughts. Sending many hugs your way.

Kirsten Lindquist said...

What a loving tribute, your love is so clear and present. As I sit in hospice with my mom I'm understand the joy of the little moments that make up the memories of the ones who have left this life. Thank you for sharing and warm thoughts to you and your family.

Eve Fox said...

Thanks, Kristen. I did not realize your mom was sick. Sending love.

Michele Bargfrede said...

Hi Eve- Thank you for this wonderful tribute to Maggie. I had the great pleasure to work for and with Maggie in her art studio for a few years. She taught me so much, about so much.
- Michele

David Rohn said...

Thank you for that, Eve.

Collin Leech said...

She was a wonderful artist and a terrific Nurse Practitioner! Such a loss here in Westminster West.

questani said...

Maggie was our health practitioner and was such a joyful person. My daughter a, as a toddler, referred to her as maggielake, all one word, and was always eager to go and see her at the office in Putney. Even shots were okay when given by maggielake. She will be missed but will always be woven into the fabric of our family!

Eve Fox said...

Just wanted to say how nice it is to hear from those of you who knew and loved our Maggie from various aspects of her life. And it's nice to hear from those of you who didn't know her, too :)

Anonymous said...

Remember only the physical body is out sight.. that spirit is still with you that cannot fade. The universe keep our secret,and beyond we form from the unknown to human then when leave we become that special gift. Memory.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Saying Goodbye

We spent last week in the heat and bright sunshine of Costa Rica, spending as much time as possible immersed in the water and drinking cold, sweet agua de pipas through bamboo straws. Our five-year old was wild for both the water and the young coconuts and managed to amass a sizeable collection of bamboo straws that he insisted on bringing home (they're now sitting in a plastic bag on the rug in the middle of his floor where they will stay until I move them.) Our two-year old was, unfortunately, terrified of both the pool and the ocean but he lapped up the attention from his aunt and uncle and his grandparents and put away astonishing amounts of food between frequent dips in the yellow, plastic baby bathtub I bought at the little supermercado in town.

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.
I've written about Maggie here before but in case you missed it, she's been battling lymphoma for the past 10 years, undergoing two brutal but temporarily effective stem cell transplants and countless rounds of chemo and radiation. After exhausting the last of her treatment options - a drug cocktail including a new drug called Ibrutinib - this fall, her tumors had spread and grown at a frightening pace, she was having more and more difficulty breathing and was often in unbearable pain. It took her some weeks with help of hospice at home, before finally departing her poor, little, battle-scarred body.

Maggie and her love enjoying the sun in Maine after her first stem cell transplant which led to a 6-year remission.
I can't tell you how much I will miss my beautiful aunt. I loved her from the first time I met her almost 15 years ago, just a few months after I began dating her nephew who would eventually become my husband.

Maggie and her friend, Helen, swimming out to the seals during her remission.
She was full of life - downright irrepressible. When she was well she took care of people as a nurse practitioner at the Brattleboro Free Clinic, hiked, biked and swam, helped her friends tap and boil sap to produce hundreds of gallons of pure amber maple syrup, raised and slaughtered her own chickens and lambs, grew, picked and canned enough food for an army, collected plants for her beautiful botanical artwork, cooked and baked and cleaned, and generally showered her partner and kids and sisters and all the people in her life with affection.

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.
In the week before she died, she shocked her family by calling on some unknown reserves of energy to finish framing the gorgeous, new prints for her final show, "Gone To Seed" that opened last week at Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts. Then she amazed yet everyone again by making the trip down to Brattleboro to see the show hung the day before it opened. She had to tour the gallery in a wheelchair with a barf bucket on her lap but it filled her with happiness to see her work writ large on those clean, white walls.


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.

13 comments:

Art and Soul said...

This is very beautiful Eve. I am sorry for your loss. This post made me want to live more fully, and the one quote at the end flooded me with emotion. Thank you for your honest and loving sharing. ~Danielle

Anonymous said...

I have thought of Maggie often since reading the post about the lentil salad. What an amazing woman and what a profound loss for you and your family.
You are blessed with wonderful memories and Maggie's wisdom.
Take care.

cmd said...

What a lovely person to have had in your life. So sorry for your loss.

Nelly Chepkong'a said...

This is a Beautiful tribute, she's in a wonderful peaceful place.

Beth said...

Eve, this is such a beautifully written, moving tribute. I'm so happy you had someone like Maggie in your life, and I'm so, so sorry you no longer will. You, your husband, and the rest of your family are in my thoughts. Sending many hugs your way.

Kirsten Lindquist said...

What a loving tribute, your love is so clear and present. As I sit in hospice with my mom I'm understand the joy of the little moments that make up the memories of the ones who have left this life. Thank you for sharing and warm thoughts to you and your family.

Eve Fox said...

Thanks, Kristen. I did not realize your mom was sick. Sending love.

Michele Bargfrede said...

Hi Eve- Thank you for this wonderful tribute to Maggie. I had the great pleasure to work for and with Maggie in her art studio for a few years. She taught me so much, about so much.
- Michele

David Rohn said...

Thank you for that, Eve.

Collin Leech said...

She was a wonderful artist and a terrific Nurse Practitioner! Such a loss here in Westminster West.

questani said...

Maggie was our health practitioner and was such a joyful person. My daughter a, as a toddler, referred to her as maggielake, all one word, and was always eager to go and see her at the office in Putney. Even shots were okay when given by maggielake. She will be missed but will always be woven into the fabric of our family!

Eve Fox said...

Just wanted to say how nice it is to hear from those of you who knew and loved our Maggie from various aspects of her life. And it's nice to hear from those of you who didn't know her, too :)

Anonymous said...

Remember only the physical body is out sight.. that spirit is still with you that cannot fade. The universe keep our secret,and beyond we form from the unknown to human then when leave we become that special gift. Memory.