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Life out here by Bret Kofford: Praying for another tomorrow

April 17, 2002

You watch her swing wide a damaged hip, then push forward a stiff leg.

Then she stops to rest.

This is how she goes places these days.

Yeah, she's an old lady now. But she'll always be your girl.

Tasha holds a place of rare respect in your family. She is smart, quiet, dignified and caring. She is the glue of your family. When you argue, she intervenes, shaking her head and crying for you to stop. When you gather as a family and snuggle and laugh, she is at her happiest.

She raised two of her own but more important to you, and to her, she helped raise a boy, a bigger boy now over whom she still frets like a mother. She wants him to be good and gives him looks of sincere disappointment when she thinks he's not.

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A brave, tough soul, she seems afraid now, afraid of what her body is doing to her, afraid she is becoming a burden. You would never think, could never think, of her that way. She made sacrifices for you and now it is time for payback. It is time for you to watch out for her, to accept her travails, her accidents, her burdens.

She has lost a lot of weight, too much weight. The lifetime full-figured girl has finally lost her curves. Her breathing often is labored. Her limbs, and other places, ache. She is sensitive to the touch, crying out if you touch her in the wrong place. Still, she seeks affection, more than ever, maybe because she realizes her time with you is short.

The hope is that she has an auto-immune problem tearing apart her body. That would be a terrible, horrible thing, with an extended, expensive treatment. Still, it is your hope, because she could survive it.

The fear is that it is bone cancer. That would mean bye-bye, Tash, and soon.

The doctors say there is still hope, though, and as long as there is a glimmer, you're hanging in, as are all the family and extended family, the many Friends of Tasha.

The bills for this problem have reached high and are going to reach higher. Your attitude is she's family and you all love her, costs be damned.

Because it is such a trial, she doesn't move much now — up to eat, up to do her bathroom duties. Even those short trips are arduous for her old, apparently dying bones. Because of her deep love, she still follows her family from room to room, although she often arrives late now. You watch her with a mix of sadness and admiration as she tries to keep things going, tries to continue to live the life she loves to live.

She has her good days, days when she limps horribly but still gets around. Her bad days, well, they're just heartbreaking, and they're more and more frequent.

A few weeks ago the first child she helped raise, a girl now 9 years old, came from the East Coast to visit her. Tasha, already crumbling, seemed to know she had to marshal whatever energy she had to show the girl that the one she had worshipped from afar for most of life was as special as she had heard, was attentive and loving and patient and beautiful. For three days Tasha kept up with and indulged the little girl, as she and her onetime baby went place to place and spent countless hours together. It wasn't easy, but Tash was willing, and smiling the whole time, through every outing, hug, kiss and hair brushing.

Then, after her friend left, she was tired, terribly tired. You just hope it wasn't her last stand, her last noble act in a life full of nobility.

It hurts you to see her in such pain. When your friend hurts, you hurt. When your best friend hurts, you hurt even more. You want to help, and not knowing how is the hardest thing. She expects you to help her feel better, because you have in the past, but this time the answers aren't there, not yet anyway. So you keep trying, because she still wants to be around you and you still want to be around her.

You're not ready to give up because you don't think she is. If and when she is, she'll let you know.

You go to sleep praying each night that day isn't tomorrow.

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