I like talking about Angi and remembering her, especially with others. I know this is awkward for some folks, and I respect that. But it helps to know that she’s remembered.
She could turn a phrase.
Even in her last days.
When she began to be really sick and when just getting out of bed and getting dressed was beginning to be a chore for her, we were talking about the commitments (financial and otherwise) that we might no longer be able to keep.
“We do the best we can with what we have,” I said. “That’s become my motto.”
My driven, type-A personality wife responded: “Mine is ‘I am not in control.'”
She became pretty much bedfast. As Angi’s appetite and ability to digest dwindled away to nothing, she would sometimes think of something that sounded good to eat, and I’d go get it for her. The refrigerator soon became full of things that she couldn’t eat. And her weight fell.
Once while she was struggling with a single bite of whipped lemon yogurt and failing, I shook my head in exasperated failure. “I feel so inadequate to your needs,” I said.
She smiled up at me sweetly and said, “And I feel so inadequate to yours.”
The chemo was progressing. Angi had begun to lose her hair; she had ordered a wig by mail that turned out too blonde and exchanged it (again by mail) for a darker one. The blood chemistry cancer markers had looked so good. But just days later, the CT scan told a different, damning story. When her medical oncologist recommended discontinuing chemo — that it was doing more harm than good to her comfort — and begin hospice care, she thought only a few moments and agreed.
We went home and stared at each other. Finally, I asked her: “What’s going through your mind?”
She hesitated a second and said, “I’m mad that I paid $325 for this wig and only got to wear it three times.”
In her last week, we opened our home to anyone who wanted to visit. Frequent visitors were our friend David and his wife Susan, the chancellor at WCU where Angi served as provost. As the cancer moved into her brain and the effects of starvation were becoming apparent, it was difficult for her to express herself with words. Sometimes they had different meanings to her than they did to the rest of us. Sometimes things came out that didn’t make sense at all. One of the last things she told David was, “I’m sorry I messed up graduation.”
He of course assured her that she hadn’t, and I assumed it was one of those things she said that just didn’t make sense. He told me otherwise: “Oh, no. We had talked about her taking a bigger role at graduation in a few days. She was just telling me she’s sorry she wasn’t going to get to be a part of it.”
The phrase that remained with her until speech was no longer possible was “I love you.” She said it to everyone who visited: family, friends from church, colleagues, neighbors, our doctor, hospice nurses.
It wasn’t that we all didn’t already know it.
She just wanted to make sure.