Friday, December 11, 2009
Codi died a week ago today. Her struggle is over. She is no longer in pain. She is cancer free...finally. It’s been a strange week. I’ve been thinking of Codi’s family constantly, knowing how difficult it is for them right now. I had a wonderful visit with her just two days before she died. I’ll never forget that. Normally she had a houseful of visitors, but on that day during my visit, her mom Lisa was the only other person there. The house was decked out with all sorts of Christmas décor and Codi was sitting fairly upright on her special bed in the living room munching on some Teriyaki chicken. She smiled when she saw me and I said, “Hey, is your forehead still kissable?” She nodded with a smile. Her pain had been so intense that even a slight brush on her shoulder could be excruciating. The motto of their household for the longest time was, “Air hugs and forehead kisses.”
We started talking and Lisa brought over photographs that I had taken of Codi and her cabinmates at Camp Goodtimes that I had given her a few years ago. One of the photos was of me wearing a court jester outfit and leaping up in the air covered head to toe in toilet paper; just an ordinary day at camp. It was actually her cabin that had TP’d my tent and they visited to admire their handiwork. I had totally forgotten that she had actually taken that photograph with my camera. I asked her if that would count towards her bucket list item “To take a breathtaking picture.” And she just laughed. We moved on to talking about some of the skits that she had been in. Her memory was crystal clear from camp moments in 2005, 2006 and 2007 to the point of remembering specific rolls that her friends played. Her memory refreshed mine and we just sat and laughed and remembered the good times.
After a while, I asked her how her pain was that day and I told her how good she looked. She explained that the paralysis that the tumor had caused had started in her feet and now had worked its way all the up to her abdomen. She chuckled when she told me how a few days previous Lisa had been helping her with some physical therapy and was moving her legs back and forth. Codi wasn’t really paying attention at the time but then suddenly looked up and saw her leg way up in the air. She couldn’t feel it at all. She then reiterated that she used to be able to feel some things happening in her midsection but now all had gone numb. I was momentarily speechless as I thought about how terrible that was and then I said to her slowly, “There is no adjective that I could possibly think of that I could put in front of the word ‘sucks’ to adequately describe that. Especially not in the English language…maybe a foreign language…like UBERsucks!” She laughed and repeated my new word. What else can you do? She was stuck in that body, just waiting to die. I can’t imagine. But still she was so gracious, so accepting, and so welcoming.
We heard a sound outside and it was the neighbors’ dog whining. She had just had puppies, 8 of them, and the neighbor was talking to all of us through the open living room window. Codi said in the sweetest of voices, “Ohhh, I want one!” Lisa just looked at her with all the love in the world and almost without saying the obvious. Codi realized that she wouldn’t be around very long to take care of one. She just said in a very matter of fact tone to Lisa, “I know, I know.”
An hour went by so quickly and then there was a knock on the door. It was Codi’s Uncle Leroy arriving for a visit. I told Codi that I should be going and but I really wanted to tell her something before I left. I grabbed her hand and told her that I really wanted her to know what an incredible impact that she had made on my life, and on so many other people’s lives too. I said that she could definitely cross “To help a complete stranger” off of her bucket list too. I explained that all the people that connected with her through the luau were so much the better because of it, as were so many other people who have heard her story told by people who loved her. With that I told her that I loved her, kissed her forehead, and told her I would stop by the following Monday. She smiled and we said goodbye.
Late Friday morning I received a text from Lisa saying only, “She’s going fast…” At just before 4pm with a light snow falling and a brilliant orange sky in the distance, and most importantly, surrounded by her entire family, Codi gently passed away.
I did stop by the following Monday, and of course, it was so strange to walk in to such a different scene in her house. Lisa was there, as was her husband Brian, and Codi’s aunt Sherry too. I actually delivered tubs of cookie dough that Lisa had bought from my daughter for her school fundraiser; nothing like chocolate chip cookies for comfort food. I also came to pick up photographs for the slideshow that I promised to put together for her memorial service. Lisa had told me that Codi wanted to trust me with that job. While we were talking, Lisa stopped mid-sentence and tears welled up in her eyes. She said matter of factly, “Now I know where it’s supposed to go.” She walked over to where Codi’s living room bed used to be and reached up and pulled a colorful dreamcatcher off of the wall. She handed it to me and said, “You’re supposed to have this.” She told me that this dreamcatcher had been by Codi’s bedside at home and in every hospital stay since she got sick, watching over her. The dreamcatcher is supposed to let in or out the good dreams and thoughts but block the bad ones. I was so honored to be entrusted with such a treasure and I promised that I would be a proud guardian of it.
Lisa, glowing with pride but filled with sorrow, then showed me some of Codi’s paintings and also let me read some pieces of her writing that she had produced over the years. Codi spoke with such wisdom for someone so young. I just wish she could have continued to express herself…she had so much more to do.
I hugged everyone goodbye and told them how thankful I was for their friendship and wished that it wasn't cancer that brought us all together in the first place. I also thanked them for sharing such a wonderful person with the world. Codi made a lasting impression on everyone she met, especially the doctors and nurses who took care of her (the most amazing people on the planet in my opinion). My heart will continue to ache for all of Codi's family, especially little sister Cheyanne who loved her big sister truly, deeply and forever. That love will only grow stronger now.
Sweet dreams Codi, and don’t worry, I’ll help catch the good ones and pass them around!