A Letter to Kenz
My memories in life begin with you. We have been friends since the beginning of our time. I thought I understood your effect on me. I am only now beginning to understand the magnitude of all I have learned from you, what our relationship was. I know you won’t be surprised that I will always see your story here is a “we.” I never knew how to divide myself from your misfortune, how to have you go it alone. Every time you hurt I hurt. Every celebration, mine too. There was only ever a part of me that could believe our stories would one day divide. And here we are. You are still as every bit woven into my present and future as were my past. Now I tread uncharted territory without your hand to grasp. I will look to you up there, everywhere, for my next move. Trusting the universe that you now are a part of, seeking all of the magic in the moment. I’ll live for that.
“Roam in the darkness, in the woods, in the water. Roam alone with your thoughts. Hear your heart and what it yearns for. Mine is ever yearning peace. And I’ll live for that with everything within me. And to me, that is my magic.” -Kenz
You managed to always remain divided from the nasty disease itself, your soul ALWAYS spoke louder. We all have your words to continue to guide us to do better, to rise above, to level up, to continue to heal and grow. I will do my best to navigate all of this and I know you will be watching.
You were my preschool playmate. You always gave up your best baby doll so I could play with it, not always by choice. As children, you would tell a little lie to my father so we could be together. You would tell him you had called and invited me to come play. You would leave out the part where I had actually called and invited myself over, every single time. Pops would try to pick me up for church after sleepovers so we would tuck away in nooks of your home to gain a little more time with one another. We hide, parents seek. We would have more space between each other as I wandered off to another elementary school. But, we kept our little lady relationship alive.
I went back to you at Bloomfield Central School four years later only for us to become undivided with our best friend Amanda. H.A.M. for Hayley, Amanda, Mackenzie, they would call us in school. Inseparable ridiculously misbehaved silly children. We knew how to have fun, always. We challenged each other throughout the years but always returned to one another stronger than before. Our high school years only elevated our mischief. We probably only made it through because we had each other and we were pretty cute. College would send us in opposite directions. We were awful at our phone dates but when one would come visit the other we could pick up right where we had left off. Summer music festivals would become our sanctuary, our playground where we felt free.
In our third year of college, something else showed up in our lives, an awareness of presence in being. We most definitely didn’t place it by name way back when but we did allow the subtle nudges to guide us to a higher good, a set of values that would never fail to lift us up. I distinctly remember a walk in the woods with you over a school break as we talked and as we listened to one another. It seemed to be little flecks of light that were presenting themselves in our lives, hints showing us the way we had not been conscious before. Forever to be felt, not really explained. A trust in the universe, something we now know is always at our fingertips. We found it evolving within us, lingering between us. It would become our anchor, our moral compass and the truth that we would need to guide us through the next almost eleven years with the ups and downs of your health. We found our light and we would never have to go dark again.
Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th 2010, your life alongside Breast Cancer began. I’ll spare you every detail to your own story, we both know you could tell it better. These last shy of eleven years you have learned that mindset was everything. You would go on to defy every single statistic they slapped on you. You would jump from clinical trial to clinical trial gaining another year of what seemed like quality of life. In that time you would be fending off a number of dirty rotten symptoms. I think you could run through a list of every unpleasant bodily experience and you had hit them all. Your dirty sick morbid humor would make it all ok and you were ok, for the most part. You learned to take care of yourself and realized a worth within that was unwavering, just as it should be. There would be months we could forget that cancer even fed off of you. You were life itself, a vibrant being.
You lived that brighter side in all of this, the unexpected side of your cancer diagnosis. And that would be the one who lives and so fully. First and foremost, you loved a good mezcal margarita, “Vote For Pedro” to be exact. You would take a few of those with dancing, friends and giggles on the side. You could just as easily be convinced to run simple errands with me, grab a coffee and call it a date. Becoming a mother would never be your fate. There would be an ongoing reminder as your friends grew families but you, you were graceful with it and even made good of it. You would develop the most special child-like and loving relationships with my girls. You would even watch Charlotte, my firstborn, as an infant when I taught yoga classes.
Somehow you rubbed off on me. Whether it be walking or running, Canadice Lake Trail was claimed to be our own. We spent so much of our time together right there. You could find us spilling all of our secrets into that place. It is where we could unapologetically show up with all of our baggage and leave having dropped it off. These steps could transcend anything that threatened to defeat us. Inspire us. But that is what we learned. Any doubt, worry, or resistance we could carry lighter if we wanted to. We would always have wounds from the stories, the diagnosis, the almosts, all of the feels, but as long as we didn’t let them lead us. Stay with the magic.
You didn’t use your cancer as an excuse to not show up. You could always fill in with exactly what I needed even if I didn’t know what that was. You were the person who settled every inch of me. Just being around you made problems fade away. There was so much comfort in your presence. I know that wasn’t just between me and you but everyone you touched. All of these words, all the ways you made me feel, you did for every single one of us. And with so many people feeling drawn to you and your story in one way or another, you are sharing your gift now. You gave everyone your time. You were magnetic. You did the work but with try easy effort. All of that energy given and now as you rest we have what you have left us with.
Six years ago would transition your title to stage four Metastatic Breast Cancer. Throughout these years the cancer in your breast would only spread. The cancer metastasized to more places than I can even account for from breast to lungs, liver, bones, eye, etc. Your terminal cancer diagnosis was a humbling place for you in finding more peace with our inevitable. “Invite Death to Dinner” you would write about.” It wasn’t even the end for you then. It wasn’t until the last year or two I would hear the whisper become a calling for your life here.
Never to deny your vibrancy to the bitter end but I could see a change in your physical presence and the pain you would carry into each day. I watched the cancer hitting harder and you suffer even more. The pain caused pain for us to see. There were days and sometimes months where darkness would hover and the threat of your life would loom closer. I would get a call that you were headed to the emergency room, that you had a bad night, that you were coughing off blood, that you were mercy-flighted to the hospital, an endless list.
Uncertainty was something I never quite could get a grasp on. I didn’t know whether to prepare myself or to embrace your ability to be here. That is all I could do, be here now. The least I could do was not treat you like a fading person. Are we not all impermanent beings? I try to do you some service in diving deeper in thought of our mortal selves, not shying away from the inevitable. The very least I could do. You gave me strength in the way you held up your end. We always kept an honest conversation around life and death with no words left unspoken, no words off limits. When do you decide to let go? What does that look like?
You had to play between surrender and what was left in your life. You had to let go of your roles, your form, your ego and learn to exist beyond. You agreed to quality in life. When that waned you accepted your fate. To lean in. The farthest thing there is from giving up. It would be messy and you would question your peace with the end just as any one of us would. A will to live you most certainly had. Even if you had an oxygen tank strapped to your side and you could go for a walk, you would. If a day presented itself better and you could run, you would. Your life was an up and down cycle of rebuilding and “doing” what you could do. By far the biggest thing you ever did was surpass the fight, release into everything you are.
Your essence will guide us through our moments, our days, our weeks, our months, our years if we are lucky enough. You show up in those bluegrass plucks, those drawings of pure talent and quirkiness hung up in our homes, your flow of words scattered about that remind us to trust, enjoy the little things, and to “do” what we can with what we have in the moment. When I open my front door there you are. You have come back into the earth, changed face, but now you arrive more powerful than ever, everywhere. I can feel you. I am grappling with no longer having you in physical form seeing you, touching you, smelling you, laughing with you, confiding in you, and walking by your side. At times it doesn’t feel like enough. The wave of grief. There is a stronger current I need to be reminded of and that is the guidance here in trusting the universe. There is so much in that vast space to come back to and now with your power and grace a part of it all.
I love you so much Kenz.
Your wife, sister, friend, keeper of your keys,