It’s January 8. The second week of the new year.
Where has the time gone?
Many places, the clock on the wall whispers. It breathes with a steady tick, tick, tick. That sound….A constant reminder of how precious every second is. How nothing is the same and everything can change in an instant.
Tick, tick, tick.
Where has the time gone?
It stopped at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night in March of 2017. Kelly called me. She asked if I was sitting down. Then she said the word I didn’t want to hear….never expected to hear.
Time stopped that night. It stayed frozen as I sat on the bedroom floor with the phone to my ear and my head in my hands.
But then it started again. Because time waits for no one.
Where did the time go? I repeated.
Many places, the clock echoed.
Time passed in the hospital. The numerous times Kelly walked through the doors of U of M hospital in Ann Arbor to treat her aggressive multiple myeloma that lived in her bones.
But it was just me with her that memorable Wednesday afternoon. Kel’s routine check-up ended with an ER visit. The hospital security guard printed my picture for an ID to clip onto my coat while Kelly waited to be admitted.
“I’ll just need you to look into the lens right here so we can get your photo,” the guard directed me, pointing at the small black digital camera on the front desk.
I shifted my feet. I didn’t know if I should smile or not. A surprise trip to the ER wasn’t exactly A smile-worthy situation.
“Here you go,” the guard said. He handed me the small ID card. The silver clip gleamed.
I peered at the grainy photo. The black ink dots blended together. I could barely see my half-smile with no teeth.
I rolled my lifelong friend to the ER room in the corner of a long hallway, right next to the bathrooms. We waited. She shared her dry chicken from the cafeteria with me. We laughed until we cried when I fell off of her bed right onto the white linoleum. We did our best to forget that we were in a hospital. It worked. For the most part.
Between the rotating questions from doctors wearing gray scrubs that looked comfortable and white coats that looked important, we watched “My 600 Pound Life” on the old TV from the ceiling and took pictures using the devil and angel filter on SnapChat. We waited. We got the verdict that her dizziness was related to vertigo, and that we could go home. We returned, forever changed. Closer than ever.
Where did the time go?
We folded seconds between thin, paper hospital gowns.
We stamped moments in our memories as we swapped text messages of dopey-looking basset hounds.
We cupped minutes in our palms as we stood in the doorway of a clothing boutique in Bay City a month before her transplant. We watched the rain splatter across the pavement, then counted to three. We shrieked and held hands as we ran to my car across the street.
Where did the time go?
Time shifted. Sometimes, hours felt like seconds.
Other times, days felt like years.
Time sat with her in beige chairs. Lingered in chemo bags. Stabbed with sharp needles.
It mixed with the hospital’s stale air, her ginger ale’s bubbles, the notes of an Ed Sheeran song as we drove home from Ann Arbor.
Curled up alongside her dark hair scattered across the salon’s wooden floor. Her curls looked like commas. As if they were saying, “This isn’t the end of your story. This is just a pause in the sentence.”
Time marched along. From early spring mornings to hot summer days to golden fall nights. It followed us as we walked with our pockets packed with worries and jokes. To the chemo. And the transplant.
Time stopped again when Kelly called me. I had just pulled in my driveway from work. The sky was a ceiling of gray. Our new Michigan normal. The summer sun had traded places with the early winter clouds a long time ago.
“Are you sitting down?” she asked.
“Yes, but I’m nervous…the last time you called and asked if I was sitting down, you told me the doctors think you have cancer.”
She chuckled lightly. “I’m going to send you something, okay?”
“Okay…” I held my breath.
My phone chirped with a text message. I pulled the phone from my ear and looked at the screenshot she sent me. It was an email from her doctor.
“Pretty fantastic results. These labs show complete remission.”
My shrieks and sobs started as I soon as held the phone back up to my ear. My heart felt light and heavy at the same time.
“You’re in remission?” I croaked.
“I am,” she said in a small, grateful voice. A hint of disbelief. The day we had waited-hoped-prayed for had finally arrived.
“You DID it,” I marveled at the magnitude of what this meant. “YOU DID IT! You’re in REMISSION.” Adrenaline filled my veins now as realization dawned on me. Her bones were cancer-free. She was healthy again.
“I can’t believe it,” she whispered.
“I’m so proud of you,” I whispered back. And I am. I always will be.
For Kelly, each continuous chemo-like pill represents another day and more time. And though there is currently no cure for multiple myeloma, someday there will be. Maybe it will take a day. A month. A year. But until then, we have time.
So where did the time go in 2017?
The time went to spaghetti dinners, and girls’ nights in the sunroom.
The time went to kind cards and scarves and messages of encouragement.
The time went to the day I saw her for the first time after her transplant. She had a scarf on her scalp, but her smile was wide. I hugged her in the kitchen and sobbed as soon as I wrapped my arms around her. My voice cracked as I said, “You’re here. It’s you. You look so good. You look SO GOOD.”
In 2017, the time went toward finding joy in the little things.
The time went toward praying.
The time went toward battling and growing and loving and surviving.
The time went toward healing.
And breadsticks. Lots of Olive Garden breadsticks.
2018, what do you have for us? I wonder.
I glance down at the bracelet on my wrist. Gingerly touch the red and green and blue beads on one side, then brush my fingers against the pure white beads on the other side. A silver charm gleams in the middle, connecting the white with the color. STRONG IS BEAUTIFUL, the charm reads in bold, black letters. I bought the bracelet when dear friends and community members and colleagues and supporters hosted and attended a spaghetti dinner in Kelly’s honor. The tough times are tough. But there’s so much beauty and joy in the tribe that surrounds you.
I twirl the bracelet beads and think, I know what 2018 has for us. Hopefully a lot of it:
Time to make plans.
Let us not waste a single moment.