The Goldsmith And My Sister

Before molding his precious metal, the goldsmith must first melt it down until the material becomes ideal to work with. The gold reaches that point only when the goldsmith is finally able to see his reflection staring back at him each and every time he casts his patient gaze upon it. When this occurs, he’ll take possession of the metal, then carefully create the form in which it will forever remain.

It appears as if the Goldsmith is satisfied, indeed, with my sister. I have no doubt that He’s able to see the reflection of His likeness whenever He looks deep within her soul. As such, He’ll finally turn down the heat. Throughout the years, however, He has melted her time and time again, but Holliday never complained. She simply endured, and as she did, all who witnessed were warmed by the glow of her bravery and determination.

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My Sister, the Great

This past weekend, Lovie and I went down to Atlanta to be part of the M3Summit — the first ever conference dedicated solely to blogging men. Throughout the weekend, I gained incredible insight from many experts in the ways of social media and or fatherhood. But the most important meeting I would attend happened far, far away from the downtown Sheraton. In fact, it went down in a different city altogether. The most important meeting I would attend this past weekend was held in Stone Mountain, GA.

There were no powerpoint presentations, but there was a powerful presence. No conference room with with rows and rows of tables in front of countless chairs, but instead a small kitchen equipped with a wooden table which sat just four. No keynote speaker carrying on in a booming voice. Just a brave woman speaking in a soft but clear one that didn’t need the help of a microphone to reach my ears.

Much less my heart.

As many of you might recall, my sister Holliday has been battling cancer. And her fight took a dire turn for the worse just before the fourth of July weekend when, after her second round of a hellishly aggressive chemo, she fell into an unresponsive state for nine days. Toward the end of those nine days, virtually all hope was lost.

I penned five excrutiatingly painful posts which were laced with unspeakable sorrow to convey the experience from my perspective during that time. I just read them moments before I began writing this post, and oddly, though sad, I also found them beautiful.

Just like I find her.

Much has happened since she came back to us, yet I stopped chronicling Holliday’s story with Tidy Little Boxes. Today, I come to you with an update.

Since last I wrote, Holliday has checked out of MD Anderson much to the dismay of her oncologist. I can’t speak for how everyone else sees the situation, but as for me? I believe that this (pathologically egotistical) doctor mistook his limits for my sister’s. And while she did, indeed, have some limits with regard to fighting her disease, he had none.

After all, this particular cancer is of such an aggressive variety that he was in a no-lose situation. Kill the cancer, and he’d land on the cover of a medical journal, thank you very much. Lose the patient? Hardly his fault. The odds were stacked against him all along.

So onward he pushed, in spite of the fact that Holliday had voiced concern about the toll the medicine was taking on her. The end result was that horrifying nine-day stretch which saw my brave sister seemingly hovering between worlds before her remarkable resolve led her back to this one, albeit with a body that had been compromised along the way.

You see, what Holliday’s doctor had forgotten was that the cancer he and his ego were hell bent on slaying was growing inside of a real, live human being.

The very one who opened the door for Lovie and me this past Saturday. The very one who led us (slowly and with the help of her walker) down the hallway and into her kitchen. The very one who held court at the head of our four-top table for as long as her energy would permit — the twenty best and most meaningful minutes of my weekend.

The very one who, as of yesterday, has officially resumed her fight. This time at Emory Hospital. This time with a less aggressive form of chemo. This time with two things in mind — fighting for her life, yet optimizing it as well.

I’m happy to say that Holliday made it through the first infusion yesterday much better than she had the ones prior. She’s back in the ring and has successfully finished round number one.

Still, my sister is far from well. She’s far from strong. But my sister is also far from giving up.

And if you knew her, that would come as no surprise. Because she’s great. And the great ones never give up. Ever.

Tidy Little Boxes

This is the fifth post which chronicles my sister’s battle with cancer. You need to start at the beginning, though, with a post I called The Club. You’ll be able to link through the rest from there.

* * *

“Do you know just how incredible your sister is?”

I stared awkwardly at the nurse who had asked me this seemingly rhetorical question. And she stared right back with big brown eyes that sparkled with hope. They told me she believed–the cross hanging around her neck, their echo.

Though well aware that my sister is, indeed, incredible, I had actually been stumbling upon that very question all week. Specifically the just how incredible part. Frankly, it was difficult for me to reconcile the reports I was getting from Mom with the image that was etched in my mind — that of Holliday lying unconscious in her bed in the ICU.

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Mind Over Matter

This post is a continuation from the last three and details my sister’s brave battle with cancer. To read from the beginning, please start with the post called The Club.

* * *

I don’t think the nighttime nurse liked us very much. She had a valid reason. Generally speaking, shaking martinis in a hospital room is a no-no. But we didn’t care. Not because we’re raging alcoholics, but simply because that’s what we do. We drink two martinis before dinner. Well, I don’t. I mean I sometimes do, but only when I’m with my parents. Because that’s what they do.

With Dad withering away in his hospital bed, the task of shaking our drinks fell to yours truly. I brought in the ice needed via a large Styrofoam cup and smuggled the vodka, vermouth, olives, and glasses in my backpack. When the nurse caught me red-handed, she gave me a look of admonishment, one that all but asked me to stop. Before she could articulate her thoughts, I shot her a look of my own.

“He’s dying,” I told her with my eyes while slowly shaking my head. “So why don’t you let him live a little?”

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The Beautiful Fight

This post is the third installment of Holliday’s story. Part I is called The Club and part II is called The Class.

* * *

Within the melancholy exists miraculous beauty.

Early one morning in 2002, my brother picked me up from the airport and drove me to see my dad in the hospital where he had been unresponsive since the afternoon before. It was his rapid turn for the worse which had prompted the phone calls urging me to catch a cross-country flight that very night if I ever wanted to see him alive again.

The second I walked into his room, I knew that though he was technically still with us, he was gone nonetheless. But I was wrong. He came back to us later that day.

“I died last night, Martha Lee,” he would tell my mom. She believed him.

And so did I.

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The Class

This is a continuation of my last post, The Club.

* * *

I didn’t take much. Everything fit into a small backpack, even the laptop which I carefully got out and placed inside the gray plastic tub. As I watched it glide away, I was overtaken with déjà vu. It was just like the last time.

Well, not really, I suppose. The last time I was a bachelor. That day I was the married father of four. The last time I was unemployed. That day I was a small business principal. The last time I was flying back to a home I had abandoned right after college. That day I was leaving the same home I had eventually reclaimed. The last time it was right after Halloween. That day was the Fourth of July. The last time I was lost as a bat and searching for answers. That day I knew exactly where I was, but not because I had found those answers. I just better understood where to look for them.

The last time I was going to see my dad. That day I was going to see my sister.

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