Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, and can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog.
The fluorescent lights were bright, stark and as cold as the chilled winter air outside. Hot air blew relentlessly making the room overheated while turning my skin to leather. Endless announcements played like off key music to my ears. The smell of antiseptic and medicine wafted over me, reminding me of the many sad moments I had spent at my mother’s hospital bed. Only this was not my mother, nor was it I who was lying in the bed, waiting for yet another invasive medical procedure. My heart ached as I rose from my chair to play a CD of native flute music that would bring relaxation if not peace to this sterile environment. I clicked off the light and crawled up beside the woman lying in the bed. Putting my arm under her neck and touching my head to hers, I whispered “Listen to the music and imagine we are by Oak Creek in Sedona after hiking up Cathedral Rock. Close your eyes, hear the music, feel the warm desert air on your face and trust my love flowing into your heart.”
We breathed together, imagining the beautiful scene while waiting for whatever was to come next. We were living in that moment and I was focused on loving her. It mattered not what the nurse or doctor might think when they stepped in and saw us; two grown women cuddled up in their hospital bed. This was the first person I’d ever fallen in love with and according to the doctors, she was dying. Kidney cancer, they said and the prognosis was horrible. I had moved beyond the obvious questions of why her, why now when I had just moved out of my marriage to be with her. How cruel it seemed to give me these amazing new sensations and emotions at age 37 with her, only to take her away from me. But as I lie in the hospital bed with my lips to her head the only thoughts were of hope. Hope for a miracle. Feelings of love emanated from every molecule of my being to hers. Peace was present. Doubt and fear were not allowed into this sacred space.
As we grew closer, loving one another more deeply, her physical body was deteriorating. Cancer was taking her away from me. I was strong, healthy and determined not to let it win. Was it courage or craziness that happened next? On a cold winter’s day in upstate New York, we boarded a plane for Phoenix. We left the familiar: the family, friends and home to fly to hope and promise. Hope for a miracle so cancer would not take her. Promise of a life together filled with love, laughter and dreams. I pushed her in the wheelchair from the plane to the taxi wishing we were here to hike in Sedona rather than this. Arriving at the alternative health clinic, we were greeted with smiles filled with hope. Perhaps the miracle would occur.
There was vitamin therapy, cranial sacral treatments, dietary guidelines and wellness counseling. One moment at a time we sat together, talking, hoping, and loving one another. Her sons came to see her. Such sadness in their eyes it was difficult for me to be with them. I had my own emotions which made my ability to empathize with them very challenging. Her estranged sister came to see her, to ease her conscience, I suppose. Every moment of every day I loved her, wanting my love for her to be more powerful than the cancer. My love was supposed to make the cancer disappear. That was my plan. That was my hope. That is not what happened. The cancer grew from her kidney into her lungs until she could no longer breath. The life force dissipated and her soul left the body. I had held her hand so many times before, experiencing tremendous loving energy with her but now, I held her lifeless hand, gazing at her fingers as I stroked them, noticing there was no energy emanating from her anymore. I wept.
It was not courageous for me as a married woman to fall in love with another woman; no that was an involuntary act. The courage arrived with the cancer diagnosis. The decisions I made to stand beside her, loving her up until she gasped her last breath, those decisions required courage. Transformative Language Arts helped create a container for me to express our experience with the intent of giving voice to same-gender love in a context many could understand through the sharing of raw emotion. Soon after Britt died, I was asked to speak at her memorial service. I gathered my courage and scripted my words carefully, sharing a truth of my experience of her that would be uplifting to all who loved her.
A native New Yorker, who’s now living her dream of a sustainable life in Hawai’i with wife, Holly, Eila’s been expressing herself through writing since childhood. Published works include, “On The Road To Bliss”, “Rhapsody in Bohemia”, pieces in Frida Magazine and Think Pink Anthology as well as monthly articles in Kohala Mountain News.