January 3, 2000
South Carolina

Dear Sister,

I've got another letter from Aunt B.

It sat, innards gaping up at me, shining atop my daily stack of mail. I could only read it in glances, peripherally, a little bit at a time. I scanned for the safe parts first, skimming past the paragraphs where telltale words bleeped warnings like a journeyman's truck backing up.

What is it that's not being said?

What do the doctors know?

We can hear the warnings in her carefully chosen words, you and me. We know we should cash in those frequent flyer miles and go to see her soon. Very soon. Yet we hesitate to make those flight arrangements, because we fear it will signal the end, or, perhaps, our belief in it.

As for what she wrote, it shows she's still holding on to that single strand of hope, like a spider flung from its web, as if some beastly intruder crashed through, obliterating its home. Yet, it has only one thought it can fathom: Rebuild.

She joked of losing her hair, in only the way that Aunt B. can. She only briefly mentioned the pain; in her leg, this time. But we know the most excruciating, aching pain is in her heart, and in our hearts.

It hurts to read through, and realize that beneath the perfect penmanship that etched the lines filled with hope, a life-and-death game of hide-and-seek rages on.

She writes about her daughters, J. and C., and J.'s two sons and baby on the way. Then, a test result: No new growth in the lungs. But it has moved to another place, a little further up the spine. Oh, remember my grand-boys, she writes, taking delight in their mischievous ways. The one on the way is to be a girl, she says. Then, I learn they found another spot, and that they will chase it with chemo, and catch it before it gets away.

Aunt B. writes, I think, because she knows this is a very hard game to win. I can detect the urgency and desperation with which she sealed the envelope and stuck the stamp, the wrinkled, ribbed waves on the white glossy paper.

She needs to send letters to her loved ones, so we will have a piece of her, something tangible left behind, to hold onto. Just like the spider, crawling up that glistening, sinewy strand.

Hope is deceptively strong, no matter how thin.

Call me, dear sis, so we can book the flight. There's still time to embellish the old family stories. There's still time now, and there is still hope.



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