You hold out your hand

to show me how radiation had

spread through your skin.

 

“It looks like I have working hands,

like those picking strawberries.”

 

I trace the edges of the burns,

wondering if they hurt you.

 

“No more picking strawberries.”

 

We laugh.

 

Is it right to laugh?

 

You pick up the phone,

then set it back down.

 

“My doctor is going to call today

to let me know if I need chemo again,

 

if the cancer has spread.”

 

You lift up your shirt to show me

what it has done to you,

how it has penetrated—

 

invaded.

 

“I’ve made up my mind: no more chemo.

I am too tired. I need a break.

There are too many things coming up.”

 

Your sixty-eighth birthday,

your lifetime achievement award,

community events to organize.

 

You feel a new spring arising

like blossoms opening

against a relentless storm.

 

The more the cancer spreads,

the more you want to live

 

and the more I realize

how fragile you are,

 

and how precious.

 

Should you rest

And complete treatment?

 

Or should you live

as you choose to?

 

I see your exuberance

as you go about the house

 

enjoying company and conversation,

sipping mint tea over mezza, zatar, labneh,

 

nurturing what you have devoted your life to.

 

“There is still so much left to do.

So much left to do.”

 

Your strength and love

surpasses my understanding.

 

You will be cherished

and remembered, habibti,

 

with love.

 

 

 

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