STOP in the Name of Love
When something goes wrong in the wilderness which usually means someone gets hurt, or you realize you are lost, or you see a bad storm coming. Stop. Think. Observe. Plan.
She said, “It’s back,” and you said she could beat it again. Sweaty cell phone pressed against your ear, your cat paws for your attention, you’re half listening. You will always remember what you didn’t know and, in not knowing, you didn’t give her your full attention. Later, you find out what “metastatic” means. You vow to be in every moment now and forever. Vigilant.
Provide any First Aid that is necessary—and not just on the obvious stuff, like blisters and cuts and broken bones.
You watch her close her eyes, recline with headphones, and you knit while you wait. First aid snakes near her heart; venom through a portal. Time folds and you’re both here, waiting for the poison to finish filling her veins, and there, standing in front of your childhood fridge-size freezer, 12- and 13-years-old choosing our treats. A Ding Dong is a dry-cake ice cream muffin straight out of the freezer. She chooses a fruit pie. Soon you perch on the two-inch lip surrounding the wood-burning fireplace, leaning practiced hands on its summer-cool surface, playing your assigned singing roles of Air Supply. How could you not know?
Mental health is important, too. Try to keep everyone up with a positive mental attitude. Most people who have survived in truly hazardous wilderness situations did so mainly because they believed that they would survive and that they could survive.
You’re ready to fight with her, face death with her, adrenaline spiked. Three years pass. Gratitude becomes complicated. Your sister is dying. Your sister has been dying. Your sister will die. Endurance replaces adrenaline. One day you find yourself sprawled in her soft recliner, watching hoarders on a small screen and fetching her gummy bears. Your words walk away until what they don’t say forms the syllables of “survival.” Hope is a dying star. They say you are made of stars. She is made of stars. Stardust feeds her tumors until her spine begins turning into a black hole.
The two biggest killers in the great outdoors are poor planning and panic. Most people don’t die in the wilderness because of the wilderness itself (the wild elements, injuries, rogue grizzly bears, etc.).Most people die because of the mistakes they made when confronted with just such a survival situation.
But chemo is not forever. There will come a time in your sister’s stage four treatment when the rampant cancer, in her bones, her liver, her blood, will begin to outsmart the chemicals both killing her and keeping her alive. Today, living a future fold in time, a memory to shake out later, you watch her close her eyes. How could the other you, furled in the past and singing Air Supply, not know this? Would your voice have cracked? Would you have sung those lyrics so much harder: “I’m all out of love. I’m so lost without you”?
Seven Survival Priorities. Scout Troop 116 (based on U.S. Air Force survival priorities). https://scouttroop116.com/7-wilderness-survival-priorities.html