I am posting my latest written work in serial form on here, since I have to wait to actually attempt to publish it for real until after January! GAH…anyhoo, I could definitely use some ideas on how to make it better in the meantime…
Today’s post is the prologue and first chapter…and yes, this is definitely my own little beginnings as a self-marketer… 🙂
Prologue: A Life Truly Lived…
It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.
– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
There is no one who understands Living better than the dying…every precious moment, every breath of air from their lungs, every morning they open their eyes and see another sunrise. From the day of their death sentence to the day they fall asleep for the last time on this earth, life holds a meaning and a purpose beyond any mortal reckoning. Every moment is savored, knowing that it might be their last.
The oddest thing about the dying is that the closer they get to those black, unknown gates the more they seem to realize that life as they knew it – even fully lived – pales in comparison to what lies beyond. The dying soul seems to reach out instinctively for what hides behind the veil, and if it does not fight its course, it accepts that there is more to life than death.
The living do not seem to feel that irrevocable pull, for their souls are too immersed in the here and now. They fear the unknown voice of Death, whose siren song is silenced by the noise and busyness they call life. Morbidly entertained by stories of death and destruction, they cannot bear to truly face their own mortality. The human nature fights against what it cannot see or feel or touch or taste or hear…no one has died and lived to tell about it, although there are some who may have heard the call and been turned back before they actually embraced it in full. The living shudder in terror and fight Death with everything they have.
So how ironic is it that from the moment one takes their first screaming breath in this big, cold world, they are already dying?
If more people were aware they were dying a little more every day, what would their Living look like?
Chapter One: Zoe Elizabeth Hamilton
Dear God –
Mom says the doctors have to run more tests today. I don’t know what they are looking for anymore since they already know I have cancer. I know the last treatment didn’t get it all. The needles and tests and stuff are more scary than the fact that I am probably not going to make it to my thirteenth birthday. But every time I complain about those things, I think it makes mom and dad more upset. They keep hoping and praying that one day the tests will show I am cancer free.
I don’t tell them that I know better. They might think I am giving up hope altogether. I don’t think I am though. I just get this feeling that YOU might need me with you sooner than they would wish.
It’s okay though God.
– Zoe Elizabeth Hamilton
“Zoe, it’s time for your appointment,” The twelve year old sighed heavily and slipped the sheets of paper back into her private box. Making sure that the lock was secure, she grabbed her sweater and a baseball cap and left her bedroom.
“Coming mom,” Zoe called out, knowing that her mother would be storming up the stairs if she didn’t answer in a timely fashion.
A recent bout of seizures had left her parents in a panic each time she left their sight. It had taken all of her willpower to fight their insistence on taking shifts in her room at night when she slept. When she finally offered a compromise in the form of a baby monitor by her bed, they reluctantly backed down. Still, she learned to respond quickly when they called – it was either that or face a hysterical stampede as everyone in the family bolted to her last known location. The first time had been kind of funny to watch actually, until her mother was still crying two hours later.
That was the problem with dying – everyone took her far too seriously now and laughter was almost non-existent. She wanted to hear the joyful sounds that used to happen regularly – before the cancer came.
Her mother fussed over her as she sauntered down the stairs. Zoe didn’t have the heart to tell her to back off – appointment days were always the worst as far as stress levels went, so she gave her family some leeway. Her dad had already left for work that morning – having to sit through several meetings that he couldn’t avoid – and her sisters and brothers were in school, a thought that left Zoe with a tinge of regret.
She had missed so many school days since her diagnosis four years ago, that her mom was now schooling her at home with the help of a state virtual academy. She liked the ability to pace herself and do homework in her favorite recliner, but it hurt to see her friends and siblings enjoying a community of peers she might never be a part of again. Her new set of peers consisted of the patients she met through various hospital-organized cancer events.
Zoe was silent on the car ride, pensive thoughts keeping her from being her usual chatty self. She could tell her mother was worried, but couldn’t bring herself to actually say anything – test days always brought on an apprehensive mood and for the most part her family left her alone until it was over.
The waiting room at the children’s hospital was warm and reassuring, perfect for the children and their frightened families. Unlike some waiting rooms, the patients and families interacted with one another, sharing life stories and successes along with the struggles and losses.
Most of the time, Zoe was able to shake the doldrums while she caught up with the regulars.
Zoe knew several of the kids from the cancer support groups that she and her family attended on a regular basis. Some of them had started treatment around the same time she had and they tried to engage her in conversation with little success. Knowing well the ups and downs of each day, they didn’t push her.
Glancing around the room, Zoe noticed another quiet kid in the opposite corner. From the looks of his parents, they were first time visitors to the cancer center. She had never seen them in the waiting room before. Her heart instantly went out to them and with a whispered word of explanation to her mother, she headed over to introduce herself.
“Hi. I am Zoe. What’s your name?” She asked quietly, addressing the boy who looked to be around her own age. His head was still covered in a mass of curly red locks and she absently wondered if his mother had to fight to tame the unruly mop.
For a moment, the boy just stared at her as his parents smiled timidly in her direction. The fear in his gray-green eyes was stark, instantly arousing a tender, mothering instinct in Zoe. She wanted to hug him, but knew that it might scare him away before she had a chance to even know his name.
At a less-than-subtle nudge from his mother, he finally broke down and spoke.
“It’s Parker,” He mumbled, flushing as red as his hair. He shuffled uncomfortably as she continued her scrutiny with an easy smile.
“It’s nice to meet you Parker. I have bone cancer; how about you?” The bluntness seemed to throw him again and Zoe flinched, thinking that she had pushed too far. He recovered again, more quickly this time although the flush still colored his pale skin.
“I got a tumor in my brain,” The fear was back in full force and Zoe decided to change tactics, focusing on her own story for a little while.
“I actually started out with a tumor too, but it was on my leg and had already spread a little before the doctors found it,” She began, noticing that Parker’s parents seemed to be listening to the conversation as well. The haunted look in their eyes had given way to curiosity at her precocious introduction. “Used to be in volleyball until my left leg started hurting really bad. I kept getting bruises and wouldn’t remember where they came from. I was eight years old. I’m twelve now. How old are you?”
“Thirteen,” He stated shortly before a curious look entered his eyes. “What was your favorite position?”
“Setter mostly, but Coach Hansen liked to rotate us a lot,” She couldn’t resist the urge to boast. “We won every game one season. Did you play a sport?”
“Yeah. Four years; I played softball until…” His voice drifted off and Zoe noticed that his parents cringed as if struck.
“How did you find out?” She asked gently, knowing that this was sometimes the hardest part of first conversations. Reliving the early days of questions, tests, and more questions was a huge hurdle on the road to acceptance. At least that’s what her mom said.
“Got headaches a lot. They got so bad that I started having eye problems. Couldn’t see the ball sometimes and it smacked me right on the head. Dad says I dropped like a sack of potatoes right there on the field,” Zoe could hear the humiliation in Parker’s voice. “Woke up in a hospital bed and nurses whispering about how bad it looked.”
During the telling, Zoe had moved to sit next to the distraught boy and she cautiously placed a comforting hand on his own doubled up fists. He had been squeezing the life out of a corner of his tee shirt and instantly stilled when he felt her soft touch. He flushed again, but didn’t move away.
“Gonna get surgery?” She asked quietly. “My best friend Allie had a brain tumor and she just got out of surgery a few weeks ago. She’s not here today or I would introduce you both.”
“The doctors said they have to do more tests to see if it’s oper…able,” He struggled with the word that could change his life. “That’s why we are here today.”
“I needed surgery after my first round of chemo. Some of the tumor was still there, but the doctors removed it and they didn’t even have to take off my leg,” She grinned widely at the dumbfounded expressions on the family’s faces.
It didn’t take much to shock the newbies. The trick was in giving them just the right amount of shock treatment – mainly humor – without completely destroying their sensitive emotions. Going too far before they had gotten used to everything could send them into a panic.
There wasn’t time to gauge the extent of their reactions as Zoe’s name was called from the front of the room just then. She hoped she hadn’t pushed them too far.
“I gotta go now, but I’ll probably see you around. If Allie is here next time, I can introduce you. She loves talking about her surgery,” Still in a semi-state of shock, the new family could only nod as she bounced away. Her previous troubled mood had lifted with the reminder that some kids had it worse than she did.