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A new opportunity

Cancer journey co-pilot's log star date 10.5.23. Earlier this week I picked up the ashes. For some reason that was far harder than seeing Kara's body. There was a sickening finality in the compactness of the package that went home in the car with me. A kind of existential sticker shock that shot straight to my gut. The worst part is the mundaneness of this incomprehensible reduction of the closest company that one can keep. One more bag with one more box in a house full of bags and boxes. From my wife to both parents to all three of our little dogs, my world has become a museum of untimely incinerations. I am the curator and I do not deserve to take on this task. I am especially unworthy of She Who Went Before Me. I did not watch over her as closely as I could have. Of course, this is caregiver's guilt, or survivor's guilt, Hardly a phenomenon. But because it has the power to cause disease in itself, I think the feeling is worth noting.

Kara was all about noting feelings and moving on from them. So how do I go about this? How would she go about this if she were in my place, haunted by the hammer fall of tumor mutations, sepsis, and failed immunotherapy that shattered our lives together in a period of sixteen weeks? Now that I am no longer focusing on myself, the question is not hard for me to answer. I can see her taking on a new mission of healing through crying, making TikTok videos, singing karaoke in her living room, drawing, and building stained-glass mosaics with a podcast playing on her iPad. I can see her dancing. Massaging clients. Taking Ruby Sue for walks. Walking on a trail with a friend. Getting onstage again now that the world has opened back up. Zooming with her spiritual teachers to work through guilt, fear, and sadness. And no doubt cracking morbid jokes about the contents of the cardboard box on the built-in.

Through her blog, she would share this new phase of our relationship, the profundity of our apart-ness, with her emotionally agile ability to take in the big and the small, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the sorrowful and the hopeful, and express it in her air guitar beatnik style with all her appreciation of the paradoxical and mysterious. She would not categorize her experience of grief as a cruel thing that happens, but as another opportunity to work on healing.

Kara would tell you to skip if you think you are in the throes of a cruel thing happening.

Until next time.

--Charles Austin Muir

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