His Eyes Always Twinkled

My original post was going to be a letter from Charlotte. I will probably post Charlotte's letter one day, but this post is more important today.

I got my belly button pierced on a dare.

I was pondering whether or not to actually go and have my belly button pierced and then my mom said, "I'll bet you fifty dollars you won't do it." That was it. That's all it took for me to set a date, go into the tattoo shop, and have my belly button pierced. (And almost pass out immediately afterwards.)

I was prepared for my navel to be sore for days and days after. I was not prepared for was not being able to sit up straight. Sore, I could handle. Needing to lie down flat or die, I could not.

Around the same time that I decided to show the world that getting my belly button pierced was no big deal, my uncle was undergoing chemotherapy. I'll never forget the day he said, "There is a growth, and it is malignant... But I'm going to win. I will beat cancer."

My uncle was a firefighter. He battled burning buildings. He saved people's lives. When he said he would beat cancer, we knew he would.

A few days after my piercing, we went to visit my uncle at his house. He had lost all of his hair, was constantly hooked up to an IV, had a feeding tube, and was the happiest I had ever seen him. I, of course, could not sit up straight because of the voluntary pain I had just put myself through. And, of course, he noticed.

"What is the matter with you," he asked.

"Nothing," I replied.

"She had her belly button pierced," said my aunt. (My uncle's and mom's sister. aka "RAT")

He asked if my dad knew. Nope, I told him. And then it began. He teased me and said he wanted money from me in exchange for his silence. I laughed, but thought, he could actually be serious.

One day, I visited my uncle right before cancer reached his brain. It was the last time we looked at each other in the eyes. He didn't speak much, but he looked at me and gave me a signal with his hand. With a twinkle in his eye, the signal said, "Where is my money?" My response was a smile.

We buried him on a hillside just a few short weeks later and after everyone left, I stayed by his grave, dug a hole in the earth with my bare hand, and buried some hush money. It was my final good-bye to the uncle I loved so dearly.

In the 18 months he had from the time he learned he had cancer until the time he left us, he became a whole new person. The uncle I grew up with annoyed me. He teased me constantly. I thought he didn't love me. In those 18 months, I learned that he teased me because he loved me.

In those 18 months, he learned really how to really show his love, how to live, and how to make peace the hand life had dealt him. To me, he won his battle.

He told us he would beat cancer. And beat cancer he did.

Dear Mendie, I know our situations are different. I know times right now are incredibly tough. But feel peace in knowing that we are here for you and we all love you. Even though it may not seem like it right now, your aunt beat cancer, too. Because really? Cancer never wins.

Much love to you, dear friend.

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Heather Anne Hogan said...

This is perfect, perfect, perfect. (And beautiful, too.)

Mendie said...

Oh April...I love you so so much for sharing this story right now. Thank you dear friend for hugging me with your words.

Debbie has beat cancer for over 4 years and got to do so many things that no one ever thought she would get to do when she was diagnosed. She stared it in the eye and told God she wasn't quite ready, and he blessed her with more time. And for that I am thankful.

I know your uncle is smiling that he finally got the money that was due him and I know he is so proud of the loving aunt you have become.

Thank you friend, from the bottom of my heart.

Erin said...

Oh, April. I have chills and tears. My God you are talented.

Bacardi Mama said...

Ditto Erin! You are so sweet to wrap Mendie in love like this. You are an amazing friend to us all. Love you April!

Kirsten said...

Thanks for my Friday morning tears. But in agreement with what you said at the end. Cancer is a bitch, but in fighting, cancer loses. ((hugs)) to you, Mendie, and all of us who have people we love dealing with cancer.

Heather D said...

Oh April. This is perfect.

Roo said...

So beautifully written. What a lovely gift to Mendie right now. You're an awesome friend!

Jennie said...

This is so, so beautiful.

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