I don’t understand how I’m supposed to feel when I am dying. Here I am in hospice. Doctors say I have days, maybe a week or so left. I feel very weak. I’m existing only on liquids. But generally, I feel fine. Like this could go on for months, which I hope it doesn’t. It’s rather tedious.
It’s a gift I suppose to have the opportunity to say goodbye to so many close family and friends one-by-one, but when that’s all done then what? I pray most nights not to wake up, for a peaceful nontraumatic ending. Those around me will know where I have gone.
In the meantime, I’m finding the simplest of pleasures in what is allowed for me. The impossible brightness of a fresh pink rose on a gloomy morning. The sweetness of a glass of orange juice. The fierce sincerity of an old friend’s final hug. The thousand dots and dashes of Morse code that run unspoken in a single glance between husband and wife.
24 thoughts on “Lessons in Patience”
We are all thinking of you and your family here in upstate NY!
Beautiful, Amanda. Beautiful Amanda! I am coming to see you today. I wish I knew what to bring that would be one of those simple pleasures. Perhaps liquid chocolate. A puppy would be lovely, I’ll bet. Snow. But there is no snow. Damn.
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Amanda, I am remembering when we both read Sea of Poppies and loved how exciting the story was, but how we so wanted more after we’d finished reading. Turns out Ghosh wrote two more books after Poppies, as part of a trilogy. Wish more than anything that we could read books two and three together. Am hoping that the next part for you—if not in life—will be how you want it to be. With love, Maria (and Renee) ❤️
You are an inspiration in your ability to find the good things in any situation. I’m glad you’re not in too much pain.
Your words remind me of what my lovely grandfather told me (in his New Orleanian accent) when he, too, was near the end. I said, “I’m so sad you’re going to die.” And he looked me in the eyes and said, “Dahhlin’, this ain’t really livin’.” And then I knew I had to let him go, and if I never saw him again, at least he’d be more alive than he ever was on earth.
In a way, I guess this period of waiting might feel a bit like how Jesus felt in the tomb those few days: he had lived a rich and purpose-filled life, died young, and now his body laid in wait for when the Holy Spirit infused him with transformational life, energy, and mission. I believe this is your time to rest before you begin the greatest work you’ve ever done.
May God’s strength, peace, and love abide in you now, and I pray that he does indeed give you an easy transition to your new life.
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Amanda I have thought out a hundred letters to write you, but it seemed to hard to put them on paper and send. Hearing a letter may not even reach your hands now inspires me to put my thoughts at least here for you and Chuck.
I am so grateful you responded to my craigslist add for a roommate. I remember thinking it was crazy to write for a perfect stranger to come live with me, and yet God was so gracious to provide you- the perfect last roommate. Remember how scared we were to meet each other?! I think of you all the time when I make scones or some sort of vegetarian dish. I loved our Saturday walks to the farmer’s market. You taught me how veggies should be cooked properly and, though Shaun still thinks they will always taste better with some meat, he actually LIKES them now! The fun we had playing games and just hanging out. I was playing scrabble with Shaun last week, and wishing you were here to play with too. We always had these long, super friendly matches helping each other out and seeing what crazy word could work. You also introduced me to hipster music, for which Shaun will never forgive you 😉 I can’t listen to Iron and Wine without a smile and memory of our apartment days.
We both met our husbands in that little apartment and you taught me so much. We had so many serious conversations about God, men and how all that was supposed to go together. I love that you never judged a decision I made, but told me in a gracious way if I was being foolish. And then you were there to read the friendship poem Shaun had written as the first part of his proposal. Do you remember the crazy snow storm that happened the night before, leaving me stranded at my parents!? You had to work hard to get me to come home so that you could read that poem and start the proposal off. What a sweet memory for me.
And in the last few months, though you have not known it, you have continued to speak into my life and graciously tell me that I was being foolish. Foolish to be angry at my daughter’s tantrums. At hating to wake up a million times for my baby. Frustrated with the mundane, everyday life of being a stay at home mom. And yet you were thankful for all of those things-cherishing them as your potentially last moments with your child. How my heart aches at how I have cast these gifts aside, saying “no thank you” to God and what he has chosen for me.
So thank you Amanda, for those special years and being salt and light to me these past few months in your posts. Thank you for your honesty to bring light to my dark places and see with different eyes. Helping me to value my life, family, and time here on earth. Dear friend, I am so glad you get to be cancer free in a few short weeks and that you get to see Jesus face to face. I am thankful that you seem so close to him him such a hard, painful place and that he has given you peace and acceptance. I pray for you, Chuck and Eleanor often that this time of saying goodbye would be sweet and beautiful. Good bye Amanda, until heaven!
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I love the beauty you speak/write even at such a time as this. God bless you today!!!
I feel so much love, prayers and hugs for you and your family. Your beautiful soul has always shined through. I’m praying now for your time here, and your sweet time with our Lord. ❤ Heather McNutt
Dear Amanda. You write exactly what I saw in my mother today. A peaceful decline. I am so grateful for hospice and what they can do. It has seemed for the past two days that Mom isn’t dying at all after a week of agony when we were certain we would see her draw her last breath. She play-hated us for hours this afternoon because we had hamburgers and she couldn’t (that said, she can have all the chocolate that can melt in her mouth). When the Redskins lost, she said “of course they lost; they always lose.” She said she feels calm. And she hopes this doesn’t last for too much longer. A pretty miraculous process. She is lucky enough to be at home, but with Montgomery Hospice, like you.
The only difference, and such a huge one: My mother is 91. I feel no regret. For you and your sweet family I feel so much regret. But as Charles says, no more cancer.
Stay peaceful in your mind and heart and body, my friend. You seem to be now, and I am glad. You know what comes next. It’s all good. We both somehow know that, in our different ways, right?
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Amanda, you are such a beautiful gift to all of us. We will miss you dearly. As I read these wonderful letters from friends and family who have known you for a lifetime, my only regret is that I only just met you so short ago. Your friendship has been such an amazing blessing and I hope in some small way I have been good to you, Charles and Eleanor. I am learning lessons from you and this experience that I know I will carry with me for the remainder of my life. You have shown me what the strongest faith in God looks like and what true, utter grace is in every moment of your battle. I pray for your gentle journey home to our Lord. I will continue to hold you all in my heart, always.
Amanda, I do not know you and yet I feel as though you will always be a part of my life. Your faith, your vision of what tomorrow will be, your love for family, friends and God are an inspiration to all of us. Thankfully you will continue to live within your daughter and you will forever be a part of her. Love surrounds you. Gods light enfolds you. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us. You have touched our lives forever.
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I’m a friend of your Aunt Libby. I have been following you via her and most recently your blog for some months now. I have prayed for you in many ways – healing, strength, your family, and for you to feel God’s mercy, love and grace. I am deeply saddened by your suffering yet so filled with awe at your beautiful testimony through it. You have glorified Him in and through your pain. You have been a true teacher and example to multitudes. God is so pleased and I know saying well done good and faithful servant! I am continuing to surround you and your family – whom I have a picture of as a reminder. We shall weep as Jesus wept when God calls you home. We will likewise give God praise to know that you will have no more pain and suffering. We will rejoice that you will live for eternity with the Savior where there is no more death. And, we who also love Him will look forward to one day meeting with you around His throne. Xo
Dearest Manda, you’ve touched lives in very special ways as so many others have expressed in these posts. And so it is with me. It’s very hard to think you’ll be leaving us but I believe that the door to the greatest adventure yet is open to you. I’m so glad you have a window seat where you can see the grassy fields with white tailed deer, you can smell fresh air, and you can still give and receive hugs while being with family. That you are at peace, ready to walk through that door when the time comes. You’ve always been the adventurous one! I doubt you are fearful. I sense that Jesus is ready to receive you and there will be great joy in Heaven. And you will be free and whole. We couldn’t want anything else for you even as we will grieve our temporary loss.
Manda, the greatest blessing I saw in your life was your marriage to Chuck. And then Eleanor. Thank you for trusting God to bless you in entering marriage and motherhood. You are leaving a legacy through that will remain through each of these precious ones.
All my love until we meet again. “Aunty” Linda
Amanda, this is beautiful. The pragmatic yet breathtakingly gentle way you have expressed this resonates with my heart. Tony & I join you in praying that the transition would be nontraumatic. There will be many tears shed at your homegoing, but we do not weep as those who have no hope.
I can’t wait to see you among the Cloud of Witnesses one day. My father is there already…he finished his battle with cancer when I was 5…part of why your story resonates so with me. What a privilege it will be to one day spend eternity with both of you, among all the rest, dancing and worshipping at the feet of the Eternal God.
Be at peace. Thank you for running your race in such a way as to give hope to us all. You have loved well and are well loved. Soli Deo Gloria!
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You’re willingness to embrace beauty and honesty until the end is unforgettable. Here’s a little bit more beauty. One of my favorites by Mary Oliver. Clearly you’ve never needed anyone to tell you which way to row.
West Wind #2
By Mary Oliver
You are young. So you know everything. You leap
into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and
your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to
me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent
penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a
dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile
away and still out of sight, the churn of the water
as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the
sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable
pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth
and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls
plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life
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I’m wishing that there was some way you could write from heaven because you would do so in such a beautiful ‘effortlessly elegant’ (to quote another friend of yours) way, and I think we would see Heaven in a new and beautiful way. Reading your blog posts and seeing all the comments on it and on FB have been so touching, such an amazing testimony to who you are — as a writer, friend, husband, mother. You have touched so many lives with your humility and sense of adventure, your humor, your love of life. Knowing you at Gordon — and being your roommate for two years — is one of my greatest joys in life. I marvel that you are taking this with so much grace and acceptance. You are beautiful and an inspiration to us all. Selfishly, I hope you can write again, to bless us with your words and perspective, but I know to be with Jesus is greater than anything here on earth. I envision you having tea with Gwen Iffil and all the Inklings. Bless you this day, my friend. May you have sweet conversations and interactions with friends and family, but, of course, especially Charles and Eleanor. Love, Jenna
OK – obviously, I need an editor because I just said you were a wonderful husband. Yikes. Clearly, I meant WIFE, but I was also thinking about Charles in all this too, and how he’s been with you, etc etc. Too many thoughts racing through my mind to keep up with them all, I guess. Sigh.
Amanda and Chuck,
I’m so deeply sorry to hear what you’ve been going through. You are both very special people. I marvel at your strength, eloquence and devotion. My prayers go out to you, your families and your beautiful daughter. Peace and love to you all.
I just found your story on Facebook and am really touched as I read what you’ve been through. Thank you for sharing your experience and reflections. I feel fortunate to have worked with you at Smithsonian magazine, if only for a few months. Warm wishes to you and your family.
My dear sweet Amanda,
At this heartbreaking time, I honor the beauty and grace of your life. You are, and always will be, a bright light of joy and love.
Thank you for being my friend and colleague, for sharing stories with the world that have broadened our perspectives and taught us to care more deeply about the precious things we hold dear.
Those of us who love you will always remember you and be grateful for the time we have spent with you. Thank you for sharing your beautiful soul with us.
May you, Charles and Eleanor be at peace and full of love during this transition.
You will be with us in spirit always. My heart is with your heart.
I got a feeling that things weren’t going well, but I did not realize that it had reached this point. I’m sorry that I did not reach out more often, but I figured that the last thing you needed was more email from a co-worker arriving on your work email address. But now that the time for cordial distance has passed, I really don’t know what to say. I’m just blubbering all over my keyboard.
You fought this cancer with a mix of ferocity and grace that always shocked me. You’ve taken on the most aggressive treatments I’ve ever heard of, but never once complained. And if you did, no one could fault you. Even now while I’m reading your blog, you’ve been put through so much and you still sound like you are trying to comfort your friends more than you are thinking of yourself.
I absolutely hate to say goodbye to you, and I wish I could be there to do this in person. Then again, that would be a little weird because I think you and I have only met in person maybe 5 or 6 times. But I will never forget that time the magazine group was riding horses near Great Sand Dunes. And you were asking your horse (it was by far the prettiest of the bunch) if it would come home to Maryland to live in your backyard. Damn the airline’s strict baggage policies.
I’m glad that it sounds like you are surrounded by friends and family. Absorb all of that love, and take it with you. If you have reached a point of praying for a peaceful ending that stops the pain, then that’s what I will pray for, too. My family will also pray for Charles and Eleanor, because they are the ones who will have to carry on. But having you in their lives has already given them such a strong foundation and example to live by, I think they will turn out alright.
I wish you peace,
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i’ve just discovered your blog and your sad news. I didn’t get to work with you that long at NG, but I always admired your poise and good humor at a place that often felt like the deck of a lurching ship. And I was impressed with your ability to produce cogent, thoughtful, interesting text amid the office turbulence and deadline stress. I cannot imagine the turbulence and stress you’re going through now, but reading your posts I recognize the poise, the cogency, the thoughtfulness. I believe those traits must have been passed to you by some very special people, and you in turn have demonstrated them for those of us who have had the special privilege of knowing you, how ever briefly.
Peace and love to you and your family,
I too am only now coming out of my reserve, where I worried and wondered about you and your family and your little girl, to find this generous and difficult blog. Thank you for all you gave to us through your work and your terrific editing skills. And from me especially, thank you for sharing your New England grit and humor. This New Hampshire girl salutes the Vermonter in you. Peace to you now. I am so sorry to say goodbye.
I’ve always been so pleased by the improbability (at least it seemed that way to me) of our crossing paths once with the bar pilots, and again at TNC. You are the kind of person a writer wants to have on the other end of the line: engaged and thoughtful, and providing wise counsel along with the necessary gentle nudges. It felt like great fortune, and whenever it came time to end those calls, I often found myself wishing for just one more problem that we could try to fix. This is all devastating news, but I am heartened that you’re surrounded with such love. Your strength and composure and grace are incredible, and you and your family are much in my thoughts.
For whatever reason, you have been on my mind a good bit the last week or so. I had been meaning to reach out to you, the last two months, to see if you still wanted to reschedule. Alas, the Christmas rush had me pushed to the edge and I just never got to it. Then, this week, I felt compelled to reach out again. Afterwards, I had this nagging feeling and then came across your blog. I’m so sorry that I didn’t reach out sooner and I’m so incredibly sorry to hear that things have taken this turn.
I know that I only met you and your family for just a short hour, but you all made a huge impact and I think of you all often. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey and please know that you, Charles and Eleanor are in my thoughts. So many warm hugs to you all…