Your sister spoke of your mother: how she bore everything with you. And that list of everything was fresh and horrifying in our minds: the liver tumor, the tumor at the base of your neck and the tumors down your spine; the pneumonia; the pancreatitis; the cancer in the adrenal glands, lungs, arm, collarbone and spine; the cancer coming out of your bones and eating your bones; when you were swollen and when you were emaciated; when it was hard to walk and eat and move, and impossible to sleep; the confusion, the travel for new treatments, the hopes and dashed hopes. Every pain, every test, every surgery. Every loss and gain and hour. And now the one thing that no mother believes she could bear has come to her. And look, Joshua—somehow she’s almost bearing that too. So I could hardly breathe when your mother stood and thanked us. She thanked us. Now we have the rest of our little lives to try to be more like her.
I had a ravenous desire to laugh so I stood sometime later and told the only funny story I had. It was two days before our wedding and Chini was stranded in Iowa City without a ride; he wanted to get to Colorado, but he didn’t have a car, or a plane ticket, or money for either. We sent the word out. The only person who could get him was you, and you didn’t hesitate. You had planned on driving to Los Alamos for a pre-party nuclear arms protest with Helen Prejean, but instead you turned your car back on a peacemaking errand of a different sort. At this point, Chini must’ve been thinking Shit. Shit, shit, shit. What you two had in common was one ex-girlfriend, whom you both missed. He’d had, he said, no intention of getting to know you, and certainly he wasn’t planning to like you. But then a strange thing happened: he did. “Simply put,” he said, “we had a blast.” You drove all that way, listening to music, and talking about life and art and God and war. He was an atheist; you prayed matins and vespers. Your road trip had all the makings of a bromance. You got a military discount and checked in at 2 am as a married couple at a hotel somewhere in Nebraska. You drank whiskey at their bar. When you arrived smiling, as each other’s dates, neither of you were missing your girlfriend.