While walking fast on the treadmill in the no-frills fitness facility in my neighborhood clubhouse, music driving in my earplugs, I began to watch two men in the weight room as they went through their carefully executed routine. Without question, they were father and son and what they were doing and how they were doing it seemed a deep ritual. The younger was dressed in long, baggy pants and tank top highlighting a slender, lengthy body while the elder chose slim-fitting Bermuda-style shorts and a body-hugging T-shirt that emphasized his shorter, stockier frame. But there was a certain similarity in their commitment and style that belied their physical differences.
They each picked up a dumbbell and moved slowly and deliberately to side-by-side benches and began their identical sets of repetitions, one hand on the bench, the other hanging by their side pumping the weight slowly up and down, naturally dropping into the same rhythm. That rhythm settled right into the music in my ears and the old choreographer in me was ecstatic to experience such an unexpected moment of natural audio and video synchronicity.
But then the younger began to find his own rhythm and they were no longer in sync. Just as quickly, the elder adjusted and soon they were moving together once again. In the background, a car drove across my visual field behind the duo, distracting from the perfect vision. Other residents arrived and began their own workouts, moving randomly around the small space, and the moment was gone.
There are occasions of sublime awareness in our lives when everything seems to fit and we are filled with a sense of peace and contentment. Mostly just moments, they are quickly derailed by small irritants or unexpected life-changing events. And yet we are able to remember and somehow know that we will experience them again, no matter how briefly. It is a simple form of hope.
An odd feeling comes over me as fall starts to creep into late summer. It isn't necessary to consult a calendar to know that all my cancer anniversaries are lining up. The dreadful late September day I was diagnosed, the surgery that would reveal the horrific extent of my huge tumor's wrath, the Halloween morning of my first chemo treatment, the day I received my own stem cells in a bone marrow transplant infusion, and the days I started and finally ended my six-week round of radiation. Over eight months, it is like a familiar cycle, bringing back all the smells and images of my life's most important work. It seems too odd to consider it a celebration, so instead I think of it as acknowledgement, an affirmation of life under very threatening circumstances, an annual rhythm to serve as a sacred reminder.
But this year, that rhythm fell off the beat as I realized that the dates I had begun to remember from my cancer story would be the final days of my friend Bridget's life. After a feisty, angry battle with breast cancer, she died at 42, my age at diagnosis. She would not get the glorious post-disease years that had created my annual memory rhythm. She would get pain and fear and hopefully a final, lasting peace.
On occasion, life can be perfectly symmetrical if we train ourselves to notice what may occur in an instant and then disappear just as quickly. I still think about that spectacular moment when my iPod became the soundtrack for the rhythmic father/son workout ritual and how I cannot remember any two of my dancers ever achieving such spontaneous and beautiful harmony in their movement. For Bridget, it may have been the unbridled joy of watching the long pass sail into the hands of a West Virginia Mountaineer receiver for the winning touchdown. At that moment, it wasn't about cancer. It was about her beloved alma mater in all its glory. I know how pissed she must have been to die right in the middle of their undefeated season with hopes so high. We mostly deal with asymmetry in our lives, so don't miss the symmetry, the balance, when it happens because therein lies life's most glorious moments, when it all seems to line up and takes your breath away.
Rest well, my friend. I will keep an eye on your team for you. I'm sure you are doing the same.
For more by Trish Kinney, click here.
For more on breast cancer, click here.