The mid-afternoon autumnal light slanting across the parking lot warms the day and lifts my heart, an involuntary response to something in the quality of the light. The air has a crispness we don’t get in the heat of summer. Dried leaves whisper among themselves, thrown together at random by the winds swirling in the corner of the L-shaped strip mall.
Without much difficulty I dodge the cars moving gingerly in and out of parking spots just a shade too narrow to accommodate them, and make my way over to the mailbox. As I stand in front of it with my card in my hands, I think of the intended recipient.
Daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, all-round good soul. Not yet 60; starting chemotherapy.
Cancer. It comes in many forms.
Prostate, kidney, pancreatic, liver, lung, brain, bowel, cervical, skin, uterine, lymphatic, breast, bone.
Cancer. It takes all kinds.
Grandparents. Minister. In-laws. Colleague times four. Maybe five. Neighbours, current and former. Aunts and uncles. Friend. Friend’s husband. Cousin. Colleague’s friend. And now this. It just never quits.
Cancer. Sometimes it sees me tippy-toeing around the person, afraid to breathe the word. Afraid to intrude. Afraid to presume. Afraid of the pain. Sometimes it sees me finding a way through the fear. A way not to flinch away from the pain.
As I stand there, still uncertain, I think again of the card’s recipient and try to see it from her perspective. Coming from someone in her extended circle, someone who cares but who is unconnected to the ups and downs of her fight, will it brighten her day or impose a burden?
I can’t say. As much as I want to, I can’t control the outcome – not of her cancer, not even of this card.
But I can choose my actions and, this time, I choose not to flinch.
I pop the card through the slot.
The mid-afternoon autumnal light slanting across the parking lot warms the day, and lifts my heart.