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Monarch butterfly

After a long hike in the woods overlooking Danbury, Connecticut with my dog, Skyli, a rescue from Tennessee, I saw the Monarch butterfly flutter to a purple clover on the ground.
I stopped and recalled my late grandmother's obsession with butterflies. "When I see butterflies, it means someone's going to die," she would often say, referring to birthday cards.
She did die in November 2007. And almost a year later, my now husband and I got married on her birth date, September 12.
The first-year anniversary of our wedding, on her birth date, I was standing outside our home in Bedford, New York, and I watched a Monarch flutter and land on a tree branch near me. "Hi Grandma, is that you?" I asked.
It stayed for awhile. And I talked to it, thinking, yes, that's probably Grandma Angie.
I thought, people wouldn't believe this. Most people would say it's silly.
But I tend to not care what most people think.

So, fast forward eight years later, in October 2017, and here I am watching this Monarch on the purple clover after my hike. And I ask, "Grandma, is Mom ready to join you? Is it time?"

This is the first time I'm writing about my mother's illness. Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer.
I feel compelled now, five months after learning of her diagnoses, because her liver tumor marker appears to be going up. It was going down since June, since she started chemo, but now, she appears to be going in the wrong direction.

My mama, who celebrated her 78th birthday last week, among family, friends and tons of food and pastries, is riddled with cancer. It's everywhere. Lungs, abdomen, colon, lymph node(s).

When she was first faced with the chemo as only treatment option, it took her days to weigh the pros and cons. In the end, it wasn't her decision to make. It was ours-- my siblings, my father. We cajoled her and guilted her, and downright bullied her.
We had hope. And we wanted her to at least fight, try, do something to hold on to precious months, weeks, days.

She didn't. She felt she didn't have a chance in hell. She watched her baby brother die of metastatic mouth cancer two and a half years ago. She said then she would never get over his death.
And I'm convinced her cancer started growing in the days leading up his untimely death. He was 60 years old, just two weeks shy of turning 61. And he still had a full head of hair. No one believed he was sick when they saw pictures. No one could believe my mom is sick. She's still beautiful, with her salt and pepper hair, not dyed.

Mom gave to everyone around her. She gave her time, goodness and money [and unsolicited opinion!] whenever she could. Mom and Dad don't have a lot of money but they know how to save. They never spent money on trips or luxuries.

Mom didn't care for fashion or arts and crafts, or playing games. It was an odd upbringing at times, as I missed out on pop culture in the form of dolls or music or movies and TV shows. We were sheltered, but we also learned to love and be kind to everyone we met.

I learned to be honest and caring and empathetic. I learned to wear a smile and respect my elders and strangers.

I don't know what my mother's future holds, but I do know she's tired and she's not too hopeful. And so I take minute by minute and push the thoughts out of my head.

Mama is still beautiful. And she's breathing now. And she still laughs.
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