18. Wander rules

Twenty-four hours a day the chemo drips into my veins. The IV pole follows me around the room. I think about myself and who I suddenly am not.

17. The work of dying

Remembering the final months of my father’s life. “When you are dying,” he said, “everyone you love grieves just for you. But you must grieve individually for all of them.”

16. Rainbow snowflakes

Dying of cancer in 1973, my father had one question, “Did it spread?” Today oncologists answer many questions, but the more they explain, the more I have to trust them. We are all helpless in the face of expertise.

15. On the basis of full disclosure

Remembering how my father’s doctors resisted disclosing his condition. In 1973, surgeons did not tell patients that cancer had spread. In fact, they actively concealed it, and this delayed him from starting to say goodbye.

13. Her planted garden

Remembering how my mother helped us in precisely the right way at exactly the right time. This was her planted garden—cultivating who we would become. In tending this garden, she was deeply dependent on my father.

12. How will I say goodbye?

As they balance risks and benefits, the doctors keep postponing my chemotherapy. But without chemo, I only get worse. I appear calm but struggle with my emotions—particularly my guilt about the impact my death would have.

11. A middle way

Remembering how my father found a way to live the values in his family without entering the ministry. When he first studied Freud, it reminded him of his mother preaching.