It was a typical Sunday evening in January 2007. I was finishing up some chores and thinking about the work week ahead when my sister called with the unbelievable news that our mother had been diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer following a CT scan at the emergency room. I remember wandering around the house trying to figure out what to do, what to think, what to feel. Maybe if I sat down and remained calm, it would not be true that my picture-of-health 71-year-old mom was now terminally ill. But of course the diagnosis was accurate, and eight months later her life came to an end.
Fast forward to January 2014, and I have just learned that my father has a virulent form of prostate cancer that has already spread to other organs. My 82-year-old, never-sick-a-day-in-his-life, father suddenly has a limited life expectancy. Once again I wonder how I can make this not be real. Not looking at the scans would have helped, but I did, and it is.
January is for new beginnings, for making resolutions to exercise, eat healthfully, strengthen relationships, find a better job, or read more and watch TV less. It’s the spotless whiteboard, the pristine notebook, the untouched sketchbook onto which we will write, calculate, draw, record, and dream as the year unfolds. It’s supposed to be about the future and the limitless possibilities it affords us to reshape our lives in whatever way we see fit.
But for the second time in a brief number of years, someone I love is faced with a diminished prospect that the hopes and dreams of a new year will have time to come true. Yet again, the reality of January is of a life drawing to a close, and I am profoundly sad.