Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I have no idea how to extend her words so I’m gonna flop around like a fish out of water. I know Danielle wanted to communicate with all of you during her last nine days or so. August 3rd was her last post and Aug. 7th her last comment. Those last ten days were spent visiting with family and sleeping a lot. We constantly talked with the doctors thinking the meds were causing the fatigue and sleep. Truth was her brain was constantly swelling and creating pressure… we were clueless. Before she and I knew what was happening she could no longer speak or communicate. August 14th was the day communication became very simple and possibly incorrect response at times.

The lesions in the brain just did not respond to the radiation and continued to expand. Despite how the treatment effected the body the brain was not working out.

Danielle remained determined and positive throughout this entire ordeal… to the point that we never had any conversation about… what if ? Sure… we knew this was not going to disappear but had no idea it was so vicious. She never realized what was happening.

In a way it was a blessing… she just fell asleep… but for me it was heartbreaking not to communicate one last time. For twenty years I talked to her about everything… who pissed me off… what I found on the side of the road… daily experiences or adventures… odd conversations… strange hobos or hitch-hikers… artistic collaboration…EVERYTHING.

This summer blurred across time. Doctors offices… treatments, paperwork, crying, dreams of time machines and magic. We left for summer vacation and never returned.

The last 10 days were spent with her mother and Dad, me and the boys when possible. We would trek to the cafeteria and get food she would nibble on. I would lie in the bed with her and try not to move for hours.

Trying not to rant in several directions so bear with me… I was getting pretty frustrated at times but she would still calm me down and teach me to kill with kindness… she became zen.

I miss her so much it does not match a human scale.


  1. So beautiful, Jamie. And so sad. You're as brave as Danielle for writing this. And that's no small compliment.

    I hope it's some small comfort that thousands of folks are pulling for you, wishing you well, and feeling the echo of your heart breaking inside their own hearts...

  2. So beautifully put, Jamie - Danielle seems to be speaking through you. She will be never be forgotten and will always be missed and thought of with a smile by you, your family, and all of your friends and even just those who were only acquaintances. I know that many felt close to Danielle even after knowing her for a short time. I wish I had had more time to get to know Danielle even better. I am so glad that Gus has found a home at MMS because it is a very nice, cozy, and loving home and I know our families will come to know each other better as you and your boys continue your adventures here in Memphis. -Mary
    **my username Mme Bell sounds way too formal!** :)

  3. Writing about all of this will probably be very helpful to you. It might also be a good thing for your boys to go back and read when they are older. I am so happy to know that she never realized what was happening. It is a blessing, although I understand the pain of not having had a last conversation (the same thing happened with my dad), and the shock of being caught unprepared, as if one can really be prepared for such things. When I was in treatment, I never ever let myself think I wouldn't get better. I don't see how anyone could get better if they let themselves think they wouldn't. And even though she didn't, her only hope was to believe she could (if that makes sense).

    I'm very sad that I didn't get to know Danielle even better. When in school you see people all the time, and I know I'd see her occasionally when you all still lived here. You just kind of feel like people will always be around. Then in the last few years via Facebook I've felt I knew her better than before through seeing all the pictures you both posted and all the funny updates and adventures she'd share. I felt closer still to her when I found out about the first cancer scare, since I was in the middle of my own. Then when it came back, I thought of all of you so often. It's something I've noticed in the last year... I feel bonded to anyone who has had cancer. It's kind of an indescribable thing. The minute someone tells me they have it or are a survivor, I feel a connection to them, even if I have nothing else at all in common with that person. Since Danielle was an artist, a teacher, a mother, and an old school friend, my empathy was that much more.

    When you feel up to it, I'd love to see some more of her artwork. I really like what little of her recent work I've seen. I particularly love the birds and the anvil. It makes me think of my students, many who carry a burden far heavier than they should have to. But take heart, it looks like there is strength in numbers.

  4. thank you for letting us in to your last moments with her. i didn't know her as well as i would have liked. i know she would have been the best friend i could dream of... i just feel it.

  5. One night after a shared pizza at your house, Danielle was seeing me out. I remember turning to her and saying,"I think we're starting a new friendship." and we did.

    I loved dropping in on her drawing class, was it at 10 am? Something like that. I got some drawing tips down and some great chats in... "Jamie this, Gus and Hopper that.." I stopped by that room yesterday, there was no class going on. I stood in the doorway and called up a memory--Danielle was moving around the room stopping by each student with a comment here and there to help them with their drawings. Even though some of those kids were drawing challenged she would patiently lean down and point out how they might want to look more closely at where some objects touched, some overlapped, some created a shadow. So clear so precise.

    Standing there in the doorway the room was blurred, then the tears fell and I could see clearly again-empty drawing stations in a helter-skelter circle. I smiled-my memory had created an echo in that empty space. I'll stop there again.

  6. Jamie, I don't know you but I am so sorry for the loss of your wife. I hate this disease so much. You are living my worst fear, as my husband is Stage 3. I have linked Danielle's blog to mine in the hope of showing people how serious melanoma really is. For me, spreading the word about the devastation of this disease helps me deal with the fear. Another beautiful life lost and it is just so sad...