Reflection: She never mentions the word addiction

She never mentions the word addiction
In certain company
Yes, she'll tell you she's an orphan
After you meet her family

Her throaty laugh filled the room every time she visited. Sometimes her chestnut wig was askew and as her illness wore on the light in her coquettish brown eyes was dim at times. Funny, bright and mostly cheerful despite the cancer but though we talked every day, she had never mentioned her family. One day, she asked for the privilege of a long distance call. I watched as the expressions of shame, love, guilt and vulnerability chased themselves across her face that day.

She keeps a lock of hair in her pocket
She wears a cross around her neck
Yes the hair is from a little boy
And the cross from someone she has not met
Not yet

She wore a cross and told me how she prayed every morning in her tent, and how the mountains lifted her spirits, despite the chemotherapy and its attendant misery.  Her wheelchair became festooned with trinkets of good luck and affection, her former drinking buddies showing a measure of how her courage gave them heart. Yet, although I offered her privacy for her conversation, she demurred with a wave of her hand. I could not help but hear the tones of love and recrimination from her mother and the pain with which she asked her mother for news of her child.

She don't know no lover
None that I ever seen
And to her that ain't nothing
But to me it means, means everything

As she grew weaker, her pain grew, and her need for medication increased, her needs grew beyond the capacity of the shelter that I had begged to house her, pacing, tearful and sweaty. I fought with Social Security for her to receive expedited benefits, only to have her case selected for a “special” review, delaying them until after her death. She drew in upon herself in the gaunt and spectral way of the dying, yet still vibrant, often reminded me of her faith and our own special memories.

A local nursing home provided her hospice for the last few days of her life. I passed through the hallway, skirting our community’s untouchables, to spend a few hours before she died. I sat in silence, my only gift for her.

A few weeks later, her lover sang this song at her memorial, his voice yearning towards the mountains where they once camped. 

By Joy Eckstine

"She Talks to Angels" Single by The Black Crowes from the album Shake Your Money Maker Released 1990 Recorded 1989  Label Def American