Beyond the Paper Trail


Friday morning,
in the recliner with a needle in my arm,
near the IV pole festooned bags of pre-meds and Rituxan,
sitting across from my daughter, Julie,
who is spending her 30th birthday
with me in the chemo clinic.

My chemo buddy for my first 26 of these visits is gone. I miss Susie. It doesn’t help that there’s so much to do in the wake of her passing. I’ve often used the illustration of pieces going back into the box at the end of a game as a metaphor for what happens at death. In Monopoly, the markers, deeds, hotels and money are tossed into the appropriate slots and the lid closed. Clean up takes less than two minutes.

It’s much more complicated and time-consuming in the real game. There are claims to complete, forms to file, government entities to notify on the federal, state and county levels. Names have to be changed or removed from mortgage deeds, bank accounts, insurance policies, car titles, retirement plans and various databases.

Once vital documents are stored for sentimental reasons or put into the shredder: passport, driver’s license, credit cards, birth certificate, medical records, marriage certificate, social security card, to name a few. Our sojourn in the world is minutely documented from birth to death. The scope of our lives isn’t told by the size of the paper trail we leave behind but by the people we impact. In this regard, Susan made quite an impression.

In Her Image

Susan also made a significant contribution to the world in the daughter she gave birth to 30 years ago and mentored for 29 years.

The day was hard on Julie. How could she know she would spend the morning of her 3oth birthday with her dad in an oncology clinic, then visit her mom’s grave in the afternoon to see the new headstone? Lots of tears and hugs.

Julie small

In the evening Julie had a party with her friends where she could relax. The house was filled with laughter and kids running around, three of them her own.

The Circle of Life rolls inexorably forward. Sometimes we’re on the top breathing rarified air; sometimes we’re on the bottom smothered by an unbearable weight.

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