Morgan

You think they’ve got it made?

It took me several tries, but I finally got the four-digit code right for the giant iron gate to slowly swing open. The long driveway was lined with quaking aspens and beautifully manicured lawns. I slowly pulled up to the front of the most stunning home I’d ever seen. I carefully parked my old Honda behind a shiny black Bentley. I was there to meet Morgan. Her younger sister Jenn moved in with her a week ago. Jenn was dying from breast cancer. It was time for hospice.

Balinda, the stoic live-in housekeeper, answered the enormous front door and silently took me through Morgan’s immaculate home to a backyard paradise. I must confess that my jaw dropped as we walked past the huge gourmet kitchen. I felt a ping of house and lifestyle envy.

Balinda escorted me to a picturesque English style garden by the pool. Morgan’s “secret garden” had a luxurious retreat like feel to it. It was lovingly maintained, as Morgan appeared to be. She was well dressed with gorgeous hair and perfect makeup. She smelled of exotic French perfume. Sitting with her made me sit a little taller. She asked me some common questions about hospice care and agreed to allow my team to take care of her “little sister.” Morgan said, “Jenn’s breast cancer wasn’t caught in time and it spread throughout her body.” Jenn wasn’t expected to make it to her sixtieth birthday, which was in two weeks.

It came time to venture into the house to meet Jenn, who was in one of the huge master suites up on the third floor overlooking a large pond full of lively geese.

Morgan and I were quietly walking towards an impressive staircase when Morgan’s husband intersected us in the foyer. His voice nonchalantly echoed off the marble floors and bay windows as he said directly to me, “Morgan used to be tall and skinny like you, then her cancer treatment made her gain weight.” He disappeared into the kitchen.

There in the massive foyer, Morgan turned to me and politely said to the floor, “I will be five years cancer free this month, hopefully.” She had a hysterectomy and a double mastectomy four and a half years ago. Her horrific story then unfolded about enduring six surgeries in one year, chemotherapy treatments, radiation, complications, infections, being fired from her job as a teacher, incredible stress on her marriage, near bankruptcy, loss of her self esteem, guilt for catching her own cancer in time, and her wavering will to live.

My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. My home and lifestyle envy quickly turned to overwhelming compassion for Morgan’s journey. As we quietly walked up three flights of stairs, I felt enormous gratitude for my health, my loving family, my little garden, and the simple roof over my head.

You think someone has it made? Ask them about their pain, everybody has some, physical or emotional. You might find out you wouldn’t trade your lifestyle for theirs for anything.

To learn more about hospice portraits and stories, please visit: www.enduringlovebook.com

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