The Healing Tree


Chapter 15

Tác giả: Joe Tye

“Have you gotten the reality speech yet?” Maggie was perched in my wheelchair. I was propped up in my bed.

“The reality speech?”

“Yeah. The one where they tell you that you’re in denial, that sooner or later you’re going to have to accept the reality of your situation.”

“You mean the one that goes, ‘you’re never going to walk again, so deal with it’?”

“Yeah. Or the one that goes, ‘you’re 26 years old. Don’t you think it’s time for you to make up a will? Like, real soon.’ That one.”

It took a moment for Maggie’s words to sink in. “What do you mean, Maggie? Have you gotten that speech?”

Maggie pulled her knees up to her chest and I had the sudden panicky notion that this change in her center of gravity might tip the wheelchair over backwards. “What do you mean, Maggie? What have they told you?” My overprotective Momma glands had just kicked into high gear.

Maggie shrugged and laid her chin on her knees. “That I should make up my will. More or less.” She looked out the window, then back at me. “But they’re wrong. I mean, I’ll probably outlive all of them.” A mermaid in a riptide, desperately clutching at an invisible anchor. “Oh, Maggie.” That’s all I could say.

“Don’t worry.” She looked out the window and smiled, and I had the sudden overwhelming impression that she was looking out at a choir of angels who were at that very moment looking in at her. “They’ve told me that before, and I’ve always proved them wrong. And they’re wrong again this time. But, just in case, I did do a will.” She looked over at me with a frail smile. “I’ll be leaving you my pink journal. In case, you know, I don’t fill it all up. You can, like, finish it for me.” She returned her gaze to the window and the angels beyond. They were, I knew, calling to her.

“It’s going to be okay, Carrie Anne. Whatever happens, it’s going to be okay. I mean, how many girls get to live their dreams – get to spend their days writing poems for people who really appreciate getting them? My life has been blessed. Every minute is a blessing, whether I have one or a million of them left. It’s going to be okay.”

I closed my eyes and visualized myself getting up out of this bed and walking over to the window and closing the shades, to stop those wicked angels from calling to Maggie. They couldn’t have her yet. Not for a long time. “It’s going to be a while before I’m confident enough to write in your pink journal, Maggie, so you’d better stick around.”

Maggie smiled but for the first time there were no dancing leprechauns in her eyes. “That’s not going to be my decision, Carrie Anne. Some of us are born to be summer flowers.” She opened her journal and thumbed through it until she found the page she was looking for. “Some things, I don’t know how to talk about except by doing it in verse.” She looked at her poem, then back at me. “Want to hear?” I knew that if I tried to say anything I’d cry, so I just bit my lip and nodded. She stared into the pink journal for a silent moment. The she read:

The Reason Why

I’ve walked through deep dark forests

Climbed high up in tall trees

I’ve hiked through wild mountains

Watched condors kite the breeze

I’ve cruised blue seas with mermaids

Swum backward through the hours

I’ve wandered lovely meadows

Weaved crowns of summer flowers

Now I live with cancer

And know I must soon die

Then I’ll go to heaven

And learn the reason why

Maggie closed the cover of the pink journal the way a parent might close the lid on a child’s casket. “I was diagnosed with cancer when I was fifteen. In an earlier day, I wouldn’t have seen my sixteenth birthday.” Maggie smiled and there was a bit of the old impishness in her emerald eyes. “Robbie would have had to find another chauffer because I never would have gotten old enough to get a drivers license. I prayed for a miracle, and the people of this hospital gave me one. More than one. Now I’m praying for another miracle, but whether I get it or not, I’m pretty darned lucky to have had the last ten years. I wouldn’t trade the experiences that my cancer has given me, or the people I’ve met along the journey, for ten thousand years without cancer.”

The realization hit me like an oversized wave crashing onto the beach just how much I’d been leaning on Maggie to help me cope with the loss of Mark. I wanted a tornado to blow away those terrible angels waiting outside the window. Maggie was at peace, it seemed, but I wanted to rage and rage against the dying of her light.

“Dylan Thomas didn’t write that poem for his father, Carrie Anne,” she said, somehow having read my thoughts. “He wrote it for himself. Because he wasn’t ready to let go. But we have to. The doctors and the nurses, they’re doing everything they can. It’s not in our hands anymore. We have to let go.”

I didn’t cry until after Maggie left. Then I raged and I raged through a night that was anything but gentle.