When my sister Véronique and I were pregnant, I developed a slight jealousy of Marie. Every time Véronique and I would talk about our pregnancies (we were four weeks apart), she would chime in with “Well, Marie does this and I think that’s interesting” or “Marie said that when she was pregnant, this happened…”. No matter what question I thought I had answered, Marie had beaten me to it. Marie knew everything.
When it was time to organize my sister’s baby shower, she admitted that Marie had asked if she could plan it for her. She had all these ideas and my suster had actually told Marie specifically what she wanted. I was a little hurt and huffed and puffed in my corner for a minute, but Marie was her best friend, so I manned up and contacted her. She was the sweetest ever, offering to make sandwiches and kept insisting to help. She really, really wanted this to be a special day for her best friend.
I remembered my sister telling me about how Marie had recently been put on sick leave from work because she was exhausted to the point of tripping, feeling numb in her hands and bursting out crying over nothings. She suggested I do as much as I could myself and limit Marie, who would more than likely offer to do more than she should.
No one thought anything of the exhaustion; as a college teacher, she was taking double bites because of last year’s student strikes and had to work six-day weeks as well as be a wife and the mother to a 1-year-old. But the day she fell down the stairs carrying her daughter was the day that changed everything.
This past March, Marie was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain cancer that left her paralyzed on one side. Her husband Max was left to care for her and their daughter while bringing in the only income. Even though we live in Canada and our health care is amazing, the kind of cancer she had meant that neither private or public insurance covered the costs of the treatments. There were no brain cancer foundations to offer the family help. Even though her doctors lobbied the insurance company to cover her, Max was still left with a $3,000 per month bills, on top of their normal costs of living.
When my sister told me the news, I immediately ran to my husband’s safe arms; the very arms that led me to fall in love with him seven years earlier, the arms I couldn’t bare the thought of losing.
The morning of my wedding, like most brides do, I thought about the meaning of marriage. I ran through the joys and the fears that I might expect to face. And my number one fear haunts me still to this day. It wasn’t about potential divorce (it’s a word we don’t even speak of in our house) or dealing with a sick husband; I could and would deal with that if and when it happened.
It took me 30 years to learn what love really is. My greatest fear is to have it ripped from me too soon by illness, by death.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Marie died.
Max lost his beautiful 30-year-old wife. My sister lost her best friend. Their now 2-year-old daughter’s lost can’t even be quantified.
But even through all of this, I have seen inspiration. Marie is an inspiration: she confronted many of those surrounding her with their own fear, the same fear I have. She helped solidify my relationship and that of many other couples around her. Max is an inspiration: he never gave up hope, he never stopped fighting and he never said no to the help that was offered to him. My sister Véronique is an inspiration: she never stopped being a rock for her best friend. She must have baked a thousand cupcakes in an effort to raise money for her friends, both before and after Marie’s passing. Even while raising a 9-month-old and preparing to receive her French family, my sister continued raising money and listening and being available at the drop of a hat for them. She never judged, never tried pacifying Marie. She and Max let Marie be exactly who Marie was, no less and no more and never defined by the Thing growing in her brain.
Through Marie I learned that forever is not meant to be feared, it’s meant to be lived NOW. Thank you, Marie. I will be forever grateful. As a teacher, I bet you never imagined that your greatest lesson taught would be that of how to be a great wife and mother.
If you would like to show support for Max, join his friends and family here.
This is a reader submission.