And The Beat Goes On

Happy New Year, readers! I’m determined to make it a fabulous 2017. Oh, sure, it’s started off a bit rough for our country, but we’ll all get through this. It’s only four years…

As for me, I’m writing again. It’s hard to make time for it, but it needs to be done. When I don’t write, I feel the stories bottling up. If you’re up for reading, let me know.

My art has taken a bit of a backseat, and that was unintentional. There’s only so much time in the day, and I have a family and friends to occasionally tend to – not to mention all the animals here. Seriously, it’s like Green Acres but without Eva or Arnold the pig. If you haven’t visited my art site in a while, please do so. Pixels is always adding new fully customizable merchandise displaying my art; it’s really quite brilliant. And do take a look (and Like, if you so desire) my Facebook fan pageI’ll be updating it soon.

Now, The Twizzy, I’m sorry to say, but I really don’t have any plans to bring the old quiz back. Apologies, I know I’ve got some die hards out there. The quiz is very time-consuming, and though I loved doing it, I just can’t stretch out my days that way. But I do appreciate your fervor.

Keep an eye out for big news coming soon! And, as always, thanks for reading, Tweeting, and making me laugh.

It’s Just a Small Update

Hello, chaps:

Sorry to have been incommunicado on here, but life got in the way. I’ve been receiving your comments – thank you – and your questions about my art and my writing. I’ve tried to respond to as many as possible. Today I decided I’d go ahead and give you an update.

I’m currently working on 2 paintings – both are for the same individual. I have another planned that I need to have completed before  July. Yikes! The Daily Gnus have sadly been pushed aside, but they’ll be back. If you’re interested in commissioning me – even for a Daily Gnu, please drop me a line. Let me know the subject matter, when you need it, and what type of medium you’d like. I’ll let you know my availability. In the meantime, feel free to peruse my artworks site at Denise Railey Artworks.

Furthermore, my writing’s taken a backseat recently, sorry. There’s only so much time in the day, and employment keeps me busy. I will get back to my writing, and deciding what to do with the oldest manuscript at some point in the coming months. Stay tuned! I really appreciate all your support and your gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) urging. The not-so-gentle people know who they are. Don’t worry, the characters will be unleashed to an unsuspecting public soon, never fear! And when they do, you’ll love them.

Likewise, I know many of you are hoping there will be another Twizzy someday, and I promise there will be – just give me more time. I do appreciate all the great donated prizes I had for my winners, and the interaction amongst players and the Twizzy stars. Great times.

That’s all for now. For those of you who follow me on Twitter on my SunnySoCal account or my Denise Railey Artworks account,  say hello. I always make time for Tweets 🙂

Officially, Let’s Make It Official

I haven’t posted about my new website(s) on here other than by adding a link on my homepage which reads “To View And Purchase My Artwork,” so I thought I should probably make it a little more official.

I know I’ve quite a loyal group of readers on here who have been sorely disappointed I’ve not been writing as much as I had been; I’ve been otherwise engaged. So now you can delight in (1) a new post, and (2) the OFFICIAL announcement. Thank you all for your support in my writing and art endeavors, it’s truly my friends and family who keep me going.

I have opened an art website to sell originals, prints (framed and unframed), canvases, metal prints, greeting cards, iPhone and Galaxy covers, throw pillows, duvet covers, etc. I’ll be continuously adding to the site as I complete various works. On the site currently you can find my original paintings and prints, as well as photographs, so feel free to have a gander. Each gallery has several pages, so scroll to the bottom for the next page link.

I’ve just recently completed an oil on box canvas of The Highlands of Scotland, and a watercolor and acrylic on paper of Audrey Hepburn at her most glamorous. You can find my website at

In addition, you can access my works through — though for that site you’ll have to keep scrolling to the bottom to see all works.

Enjoy. And smile, life is a wonder.


~ D.

They Say Change is Good

I’m currently sitting beside a rather large unfinished canvas; and no, I don’t mean my life. This canvas has been mocking me for months. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal? Either finish the painting or move on.” It’s the moving on part that has me in a bit of a funk.

The painting – like everything else I create or become involved in – must be perfect in my eyes before I’ll walk away. It must be the best I can do. I’ve walked away from relationships with that same thought, “It was the best I could do.” I haven’t reached the boiling point with this specific painting, so it sits here, greeting all who enter. “I see your mom still  hasn’t finished that painting” has been said many, many times in the last several months… Thanks, boys.

It isn’t the only painting I’ve started in that time, it’s just the only one that hasn’t been completed. I nitpick it incessantly, but it needs to be just so. Every new brushstroke gives me anxiety, so I take breaks. I’m afraid I’ll do something and change it, and the painting will warp into something indefinable and rubbish. “They” say “Change is good.” That’s a dodgy, unhelpful comment, isn’t it? Surely not all change is good?

At some point the painting – a portrait – will be finished. He’ll have a face and everything! But in the meantime, he sits with me, this silent, faceless companion watching this sea of changes come. I get the feeling I’m not the only one anxious about this.

Of Hats and Flasks and Hearts Tied Up with String

I heard them before I saw them. A murmured, “Dad, there’s Denise.” It didn’t register. I continued to stare blankly at a rack of men’s crewneck sweatshirts. I was in Target, and my youngest son was shopping. He’d been trying on knitted hats in there for the better part of two decades, maybe three, I don’t know. I’d lost track of time. So. Many. Hats. I felt desolate, saw only darkness. Would’ve shot off a flare if I’d had one handy. It was a bleak and humorless existence. I had to pee, and my feet had swelled from standing so long. I was cursing myself for having never gotten into the habit of sporting a hip flask. Every hat looked the same; I could’ve sworn he was fucking with me. Just as I felt myself slip further into the maw of boredom, I heard them calling my name. Repeatedly. Pulling me back from the point of no return. Dazed, I looked up.

There they were, CAF’s family. It was a shock, and I gasped. Loudly. Embarrassingly. The kind of gasp you see a heroine in a shitty movie do. Oh, why don’t I carry a flask? CAF’s widower and her eldest child were smiling broadly at me. It felt like old times, kind of… Yet, what was this? There, hidden just slightly out of view, was her youngest. There was the boy who was too young to remember the catastrophic Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection in CAF – the event that began the end of her life. This had not been my first time seeing the family. At the end of August, CAF’s widower and her eldest son showed up at a memorial service for a family member of my husband’s. It was kind of them to come, but as I hadn’t expected them nor seen them in years, and as I was at a memorial service, it became too much. I burst into tears and ran outside. My sons were quickly behind me, making sure all was well. It wasn’t, and I felt fragile, like my heart, badly tied up with string, just had its knot come undone.

This time was different. It was friendlier, happier, and because her youngest boy was there. He didn’t remember me, and most likely no longer remembers his mother – but oh! how darling he was! His face, so like hers – only in miniature. I asked if I could hug him. His father said yes; the boy remained quiet but gave me a gentle squeeze back – more out of politeness than anything else. He was painfully shy, as anyone would be who’s lived through what he has. He didn’t look at me accusatorially, none of them did. I suppose it’s just me. All I felt was guilt; the self-whispers of “murderer” and “killer” going round in my head. Her children never denounced me – never pointed at me and asked, “WHY DID YOU KILL OUR MOTHER?! WHY?!”

I’m sure it was later explained to the wee one that I was his mother’s closest friend. That I was the there the day she passed, the one who held her hand as she died. Hopefully it was not explained that I had to be the one to convince his father to pull life support…

Seeing CAF’s husband is getting easier, and I’m glad her eldest boy remembered me. I still haven’t seen her daughter, who supposedly looks and acts just like CAF. I don’t know whether she’d remember me. They are a beautiful family, and I’m glad to see them happy. I hope at some point to put this all behind me, but for now, it’s just pain and self-recrimination. Whether my part in this all was “merciful” or not, it left its mark – one I’ll never heal from.

Last night as I decorated the interior of my house for the holidays, I came across several Christmas pieces CAF had given me over the years. Strangely, 3 of them are angels. I cry every year…

Ho, ho, fucking ho.


Ushering Ants

The other day I came up the hall to find a line of ants marching at eye-level on the wall in the foyer. As there is neither food nor water in the foyer, I found this interesting. They came in under the front door, crawled up the closet, moseyed around the corner to some shelves, turned around and left. This went on for a day or two – with me cautioning my family to “Watch out for the ants! Don’t lean on the wall, you might squash one!” This was met with the usual “Uh huh.”

One night as I came up the hall, I stopped and watched their journey. Something about the procession was soothing – the way the ones coming greeted those who were leaving. My husband walked up behind me and muttered, “Would you like me to get you an ant farm? Then you can watch them all the time – and they won’t be loose – in our house.”

It didn’t bother me that the ants were loose, because I knew they’d do what ants always do – leave. There was no reason to be alarmed or kill them – and it was certainly not an infestation. It was only about 20 of the wee fellows – coming and going.

For those of you who know me, the fact I allowed the ants to come and go as they pleased will not surprise you. For those who don’t know me, I’ll explain. I’m vegetarian. I kill nothing. I’m kind and compassionate to everything — even people who hurt me and (as I’m told) “don’t deserve kindness or compassion… or your friendship – because they’re playing games with you, they’re cowardly, and they’re an asshole.” 

Today I woke to find 3 ants aimlessly wandering the kitchen tiles. These I had to usher out. Not for my sake, mind you, but theirs. That’s a dangerous place to wander – a lot more risk of being smashed than when they’re eye-level on a wall. I didn’t want that on my conscience. I put each of them outside to join a line of ants marching by my rose and wisteria bushes. There was much antennae-waving before they got in line and crawled up the branches with the rest of their cohorts. It made me smile, that welcoming back into the fold – like old friends reuniting.

I often find beauty and smiles in places others don’t. But lately I’ve not seen a lot of beauty or smiles. And lately I’m the ant wandering out in the open on the kitchen tiles – exposed, vulnerable – with people and forces coming along trying to smash me. The past few weeks have been especially hard. The day after my return from a glorious birthday trip to NYC, we unexpectedly lost a family member. It was devastating – and it fell to me to tell my children and husband. The grief overwhelmed. To add to this, the following week, I had to put our beloved dog down. She had been part of our family since 1997. This was all so much death – so much grief, in so short a time. I needed to unplug and get away from people – especially those who didn’t have my best interests at heart. I needed to talk to real friends – old friends – the ones who’d always be with me, no matter what. These friends hurt when I hurt – and I’m hurting now. They’ve been kind enough to get behind me, trying to usher me on, and when I rise slowly to the surface again, I know I’ll be greeted with much antennae-waving by them. I’m blessed.


It was 7 years ago today that I took her life. In so many ways it seems like it was just yesterday. I can practically smell the sterilized hospital. Hear the click of shoes, the hum of voices. Feel the resignation in the room. I still have the lump in my throat and the heavy weight on my heart. The heart is such a weak little organ, after all.

I know exactly where I was at this moment that day. What I was doing. Can retrace my steps from the moment I woke up. It’s funny because usually I’m such a dumbass, I can’t remember what I had for dinner the night before, if I had anything. But that day, and my actions, and their effect are indelibly etched in my brain. The doctors buzzed about. The nurses swarmed. And I waited. Waited for the end to come. Waited for yet another thing to make me feel like a piece of shit.

I seem to wait for things a lot – I’ve realized that in the last 7 years. I have done a bit of growing. I know I spend far too much time dwelling on the past. But I also spend too much time waiting.

I wait for people – even ones not worth waiting for.

I wait for literary agents to respond to queries about my manuscript.

I wait for my sudden longings to put fingers to keyboard or brush to canvas and create. 

I wait for calls, texts, emails.

I wait at traffic lights.

I wait for the dermatologist to tell me I have skin cancer. Again.

I wait to catch a glimpse of my sweet boy on campus before he spots me and heads to my car.

I wait for my eldest to come home from college, so I can hold him close and see him tucked safely in bed at night.

But today I only wait for that fateful hour to start, where I can count down the 38 minutes it took for me to watch my friend die. How unlucky was she at the end – alone, but for me in the room? We waited together.

You Should TOTALLY Go Screw Yourself

The other day there were some young women seated behind me in a restaurant. Occasionally bits of their conversation drifted my way. At one point, the two girls nearest me went into this long description of their plans for the following day. It seemed to revolve around going to tanning beds. As someone who’s covered in scars from head to thigh due to skin cancer, it was all I could do to keep from turning around and flashing them my body. I figured that would only get me looks of revulsion, and probably a criminal charge for exposure. You see, once, a very, very, very long time ago, that girl talking of tanning beds was me…

Yes, I was young once.

I know. Just follow along.

In my early 20’s, someone at my work had kindly pointed out my pale skin. When I say “kindly” it was more like, “Oh my God. GROSS! Why don’t you get yourself a tan? You’re so white!” My friend Ken was standing nearby and took up the gauntlet for me, saying, “She’s northern European. That’s just how they are. They don’t tan.” I’m not sure, actually, that was a defense, but let’s go with it. The woman responded with, “Everyone can get a tan if they go to a tanning salon. Denise, you should TOTALLY go to a tanning salon!”

And so I did…

Yes, you can TOTALLY get a tan. You know what else you can totally get? Skin cancer. All three kinds. I’ve only had two. I’m holding out hope I don’t get the third. Here is my story: About ten years ago, I had what I thought was a bug bite on my forehead. But after several months of it not going away, I figured it was just a weird pimple – because, sure, pimples can last for months… Then I started to ignore it, hoping it’d just fall off or something. I ignored it for a year, maybe two. Maybe more. I don’t know. When I decide to ignore something, I don’t mess around. Eventually I had to have it checked out because it started to sting when I applied cream or makeup. It was an angry little lump.

It turns out that slow-growing, angry little lump was Basal Cell Carcinoma. He was my first (I always refer to the growths as “he”…).  To remove that tricky bastard involved the Mohs Procedure. This particular dermatologist only performed it once a month, so the waiting room that day was full. Patients went in, one at a time. Got their numbing injections, had the slice-and-dice, and were sent back to the lobby holding gauze over their incisions to stanch the flow of blood. It was a funny gathering – everyone with gauze being pressed to different areas. There you sat while they checked your cells under a microscope to make sure your margins were clean. If they were not clean, you went back in to have more sliced and diced. Most people went in once or twice, were stitched up, and sent on their merry way.

Most people…

Most people who aren’t this ghastly white…

Most people who aren’t “Northern European,” apparently…

First came my numbing injection. I am not a fan of needles. Then came The Mini Melon-Baller. He basically began to melon-ball my forehead. Not two seconds later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him get sprayed with blood. It looked a bit like this…

He quickly shielded my view of the proceedings by throwing a towel over my eyes, not too carefully, and frantically called to the nurse who was faffing about on the other end of the room. I’m assuming my blood continued to spray him, because he sounded terribly flustered. Something like, “NURSE, just…if you could just… apply some pressure here!” Then he wiped himself a bit and barked at me, “Are you on blood thinners? No? Aspirin? NO?” 


As they spent a great deal of time applying pressure, I began to hope that I wouldn’t bleed to death on their table. I also began to hope that this experience was over, and that I’d soon be joining the ranks of the gauze brigade in the other room. Um, no. The Mini Melon-Baller returned. The pressure of it as it dug into my forehead (and the ensuing sounds) still make me gag. Soon enough though I was bandaged, and gauzed. Then re-bandaged, and re-gauzed. And re-re-bandaged and re-re-gauzed. As I continued to bleed through all their supplies, and he lost what was left of his patience, he handed me a roll of gauze, said, “Keep your head back, keep this on it with pressure. Do NOT stand up” and plopped me in the waiting room. There the ranks began to dwindle while I propped my head against the wall. The lucky devils around me were one-by-one stitched up and sent away. I was called back in the room for another melon-balling. My margins weren’t clean… Naturally.

Then I was called back in again…

The waiting room was really emptying out now…

Yet again I was called in. Yet again came The Mini Melon-Baller. Yet again I bled like a stuck pig.

After many trips in, I was eventually pronounced “clean.” 8 stitches later and I was sent home.

I have since had Squamous Cell Carcinomas and more Basal Cell Carcinomas. I have had more stitches. In addition to that removal method, I’ve had Cryotherapy. That’s fun. The first time I had that, I ended up with a massive welt the size of a golf ball on the back of my upper thigh and couldn’t sit for nine hours. Nine bloody hours. And, I’ve used the Topical Chemotherapy several times. This burns the cancerous (and pre-cancerous) cells off your body over a course of weeks. That’s an unpleasant experience. For many weeks the growths crack, ooze, bleed, itch, and sting – and you walk around looking disgusting. I have recently been told that I am to continue to use the Topical Chemotherapy – as a preventative measure. I’m basically to rub it across areas of my body that have thus far been affected by skin cancer. Do this once or twice a week. Forever? Who knows. The only thing I do know is that the days of my youth that were spent with baby oil glistening on my body to lure in the sun(burn) were the cause of this, as were the days I spent in those damn tanning beds. I will always need to return for check-ups. The longest I can go is 6 months.

If I ever see the bitch who told me I should totally try tanning beds again, I’m totally going to flash her my hideously scarred body…

Wear sunscreen. Avoid going in the sun during peak hours. Get yourself to the dermatologist for regular check-ups. And for God’s sake, use self-tanning creams. They’re the healthier option. Be good to your skin, poppets, or you’ll end up looking like this.

The Cougher – Or – How to Annoy & Infect Other Diners

It’s turned into an annual thing for me and my friends Annie and Martina to go to a 5-star restaurant for Restaurant Week. We look forward to this. Seldom would we choose to eat at a 5-star restaurant when we go out for our girlie meals unless it’s a special occasion. This year it was no different.

We chose the place we’d wanted to go last year but couldn’t get reservations. None of us had ever eaten there and we were quite excited as we prepared for the night out. This is an elegant and well-established place in San Diego. As such, it calls for proper attire. It also calls for a certain level of decorum. Now, I haven’t ranted on here for awhile but clearly some things need to be spelled out to the general public.

For instance, whether you go on their website or not, most people know dinner at a 5-star calls for proper attire. Proper attire means proper attire. One assumes the basic principles of dressing are understood. You wouldn’t, say, dress for dinner in something you’d wear to a ballgame, right? I wore a velvet skirt with a few sequins here and there, and I carried The Prada, which seldom makes an appearance because I’m afraid something will spill on it. This was quite an event, after all.

In addition, once in the establishment, rules of decorum at the table should also be followed. Presumably people surrounding you at a 5-star restaurant weren’t raised with cattle inside of a barn. They know how to behave, yes?


We were quietly enjoying our meal (and the sensational views) when the table to the west of us was seated. I took immediate notice because they hadn’t dressed for dinner. They dressed for, say, a Padres game or a backyard barbecue. This annoyed me because this restaurant was the special occasion place my mom used to come on dates (for dinner and dancing!) in the ’70s. I’m old-fashioned. It grated on me to see them in their blue jeans and tennis shoes in a place with such a fine pedigree.

As the meal wore on, I tried to not pay much attention to them. Annie, however, was given no choice. Remember when I assumed they weren’t raised in a barn? Well, never assume… The woman at the table was seated with two men. Her back was to Annie’s right elbow. Yet for some reason she would whip around and hack and sputter on my dear friend every few minutes. Apparently she had a cough…

The Cougher found nothing amiss with her behavior. In fact, towards the end of our meal The Cougher’s hacks were becoming more frequent. Annie and Martina had discussed it across the table and I am certain The Cougher or her companions heard their dissatisfaction with her conduct. At one point, as I was already gaping, The Cougher whipped around, hacked into the side of Annie’s face and then grinned over at me, admiring her handiwork. Then she ogled our now tainted desserts.

The three of us began hissing like cats in a bag. The Cougher seemed to find this even more fascinating because she kicked up her coughs a notch. The Hillbilly directly in front of me could sense our irritation but did nothing to dissuade this creature from continuing to turn her head on our party to hack.

Had we not been settling the bill right then, I think one of us would have said something to our delightful server. I’m horrified to think that The Cougher couldn’t figure it out on her own – or she figured it out and decided to be a bitch. Either way, in polite society, one covers their mouth when coughing – regardless of the location. We could have been at a ballgame and I’d still be ranting. Cover your damn mouth!

My mom (hardcore German) would have been appalled. She’d likely have leaned over and said, “Oh, so you have a cough? I see you’ve a napkin on your lap. Why not make use of that, tilt your head down and cough into it?” That would have been the ladylike thing to do. It is what most people afflicted with a chest cold would do. Instead this tart found nothing wrong with craning about and coughing like a demented barn owl hacking up rat bones.

We didn’t let it spoil our mood. We rose above her tacky behavior and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening. So far none of us have gotten sick.

Point being, dear readers, when you’re out, please attempt to be polite to those around you. It’s what separates us from the monkeys at the zoo who throw their own feces…

Heart Fail-her

When I met her in high school, she was the freckled girl with the broad smile and convertible red Mercedes – always fun and lively. I had no idea that before my 40th birthday, I’d take her life.

In school she was a grade younger than me. We met when my friend Wendy brought her into our fold. It was a wild night, one Millicent and I both remember… CAF, as I’ll call her, handled our teen girl craziness with aplomb.

After high school, when most of my friends went away to college, CAF and I remained in San Diego to study. We hung out quite a bit and, one fateful night, met the two men we’d eventually marry. They were best friends. This could, on occasion, be a real pain in the ass.

Five years before CAF gave birth to her first child, I had mine. CAF and her husband were (for the most part) supportive of this change in group dynamics.

Three months after CAF became pregnant with her first child, I became pregnant with my second. It was nice to go through it together. CAF went on to have two more children. It was shortly after the birth of her third that our lives were forever altered.

I was at the office. I worked full-time back then. I was Director of Administration for a real estate development firm here in San Diego. The call came through from my husband saying CAF was in the hospital. She’d had a heart attack. As CAF was a year and a half younger than me, I had a hard time believing this. She was 33. She’d been taken to the hospital closest to her house. I rushed there and heard the impossible news: Not only had she suffered a heart attack but the hospital (once they’d harvested her artery) realized they were way out of their league. They needed to ship her to a hospital that specialized in her type of rare cases. Rare cases?! We were baffled.

It turns out CAF suffered what is called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, a rare condition that occurs after the birth of several children. This was three months after the birth of her last child. All arteries leading to the entire left side of her heart were shredded. She had also suffered a stroke.

She was flown to a sister hospital, which was unable to do more than poke at her. They, too, were out of their league. Next she was flown downtown. We all drove down separately, a somber, disbelieving group. After many hours, they came out to tell us that they’d put CAF into a medically induced coma. They would put an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) in to replace the left side of her heart. We could go in and see her if we wished. I waited until her husband had already left the room before I went in. CAF was suddenly the Bionic Woman, lying there with a metal rod sticking out of her head, and her entire chest cavity cut open, covered only by what appeared to be Saran Wrap. This image still haunts me. I saw the inner workings of the human body. I wish I could forget it.

Because she was a strong woman, she came through that all right and was put on the heart transplant list. In the years she had with us post-LVAD, she learned to adapt to life with the heavy outer battery pack strapped to her waist. The thing weighed 4 pounds and the power cord went in through a hole in her side. We always had to carry a spare battery when we left the house in case of emergencies. At night CAF was plugged into a power source, not the batteries. CAF forever wore the scars of her trauma, a slice from her neck all the way down to her left foot. When I’d remark on how brave or strong she was, she’d say she was just grateful to be able to raise her children, to get to know her baby and have him know his mommy…

The rhythmic ‘whoosh whoosh whoosh’ of her blood being pumped by the LVAD was jarring at first but then became a pleasant aspect of life with CAF. We made plans to celebrate our 40th birthdays in Paris. Just us two. It was something to cling to. CAF was a brilliant interior decorator and her house was always ready for Architectural Digest. Whereas mine looked like a bomb had exploded… Sometimes she’d remark upon this but not with as much frequency as she had before her LVAD. Perhaps we both realized what was important?

CAF and I routinely hung out, as usual. Dinners, drinks, movies, shopping. If it wasn’t just us, it was my family of four and her family of five. This would be the last time my husband and I would share similar friends.

One day years later, the call came that CAF had been put in hospital with severe pain. When I called to check up on her, she said she had been in pain and feverish for a few weeks but waited until her insurance could cover it before going into the hospital. She couldn’t afford to go sooner… By then, her appendix had burst, blowing away a good part of her intestines. This was indeed a setback. Her pain and fever increased. They loaded her up on antibiotics to make sure bacteria wouldn’t affect her heart. After testing the appendix, they found something alarming: it was riddled with cancer. She couldn’t catch a break. They needed to take her off the heart transplant list now that she had this disease. It had spread to her lymph nodes and, as such, she would now be incapable of taking the immunosuppressant necessary to prepare her for a transplant. Had she taken the medicine, the cancer would have run riot. As it was, the cancer was a wait-and-see measure. This particular kind goes away when the affected host organ is removed. And so it did.

It was several years later that CAF suffered a massive stroke. She was wheelchair bound and needed to learn to speak and eat all over again. She would grow frustrated, as you can imagine, yet still had a twinkle in her eye when we’d sit and watch movies together. She was still in there. She lost energy quickly, however, and I guess I didn’t want to think that another stroke was imminent. Months later, it came.

There were no more cognitive moments for CAF. She’d suffered this stroke while asleep. It was one of her children who’d found her. CAF had always doted on her children. That it was one of them who discovered her makes the story that much more brutal. Every day for weeks (maybe a month? maybe more?), I’d go down to the hospital, Red Bull in hand, and sit for hours at her bedside. Sometimes her husband was there, sometimes he’d just left. When we’d pass, he was always positive. He believed each day that CAF had blinked in response to something he’d said or squeezed his hand. This always puzzled me as I never got responses. Never.

One day as I was leaving, I was waylaid in the corridor by a nurse and the lead cardiologist. They explained the facts: CAF was brain-dead. She wasn’t in there anymore. They’d tried explaining to her husband but he wouldn’t listen. He clung to the belief that he’d have his wife and the mother of his very young children back. According to her medical team, she would never come back, and he needed to pull her life support and move on. Could I please explain that to him? they asked. I said, “No. I’m vegetarian. I don’t even kill ants or gnats.” I wouldn’t be the one to tell him he needed to kill his wife. I wouldn’t tell him he had to kill my friend. They, however, were adamant. I was the only one they could prevail upon, the only one he’d listen to. CAF’s biological family was scattered and didn’t get on with her husband.  They stopped coming after the first day. They knew what we’d failed to acknowledge. There was no coming back. And his family seldom came to the hospital. It was just the two of us every day.

On the agreed upon date, I brought CAF’s husband into the hospital conference room to meet the team of cardiologists, neurosurgeons and neurologists. There they explained the facts to him. He turned to me in a state of denial and I did what needed to be done. He took my advice. I felt like the Grim Reaper.

Days leading up to it, he’d bring the 3 kids in to “Say bye to mommy.” It was horrible to witness. On the 3rd day of this trauma, the head on a ceramic angel sitting on a nearby table fell off of its own accord, rolled across the tabletop and hit the floor. I told him then it was enough. Just pick a damn day and stop bringing the kids in! They’d said their goodbyes. They needn’t be permanently scarred anymore than necessary.

It was decided we wouldn’t let her go on Memorial Day because he’d always remember that. He chose June 1st. We went and picked out her coffin together. We picked out her plot together. It was very near her mom’s…

The day dawned brutally hot. I remember worrying about after school care for my kids as I drove to the hospital. Who’d watch them? I knew I’d be in no shape to care for them. Thankfully I needn’t have worried. Friends and family are exceptionally kind in circumstances such as this. CAF’s husband was there waiting for me along with his mother. No one from CAF’s family was there. The doctors came in, the nurses were unobtrusive. The machine was turned off, stopping the rhythmic ‘whoosh whoosh whoosh’ that had been such a part of our lives for years. It took about two minutes before CAF’s husband fled. The sounds of her body gasping was more than he could bear. His mother ran out to care for him. I continued to sit there, holding her hand and talking to her in my stupid inconsequential way that I’d always done. Blathering away. Saying nothing of import. I told her I was sorry that I’d done this to her. I told her I loved her. And I told her I’d wait a good while in the room after she’d gone so she’d know I was there. When I looked up, I realized even the nurses had fled. I was alone. It took a long time…

I came home, went to my room, drank four beers in rapid succession, and fielded texts and calls from my best friends. By the time Andy phoned, I was fairly incoherent. I get the feeling he’d been rehearsing his comfort speech all day, bless him. It didn’t help but whenever I think of that day, I think of him trying so hard to spare me what I wouldn’t spare myself. What I still haven’t. I think of him standing in the hallway outside a convention in Las Vegas telling me I did a good thing. If anyone could get through to me, it would have been him. It didn’t work. I haven’t been the same since that day, as you can imagine. I refer to it as “The Day I Killed CAF”. I think of it in no other way than I killed her. I convinced her husband to do it and I alone remained to watch her final gasp. I figure when I make it to the other side, the enormity of my transgression will be too great to get me a pardon. I’ll have to come back in my next life as a downtrodden soul… Or perhaps a factory farm animal.

I think I’ve referenced the memorial service for CAF in another blog post on here. It is one of the few times I can honestly say I was proud of myself. There were well over 100 people in attendance at the church, CAF was very loved and respected for not only her interior design work but also for having fought so hard for so long. I stood before them and talked about my friend. I dug my fingernails into my palms to prevent myself from crying, and I concentrated on the lovely caws coming from the crows just outside the door. People still remark on how I stood there tear-free. They’ve no idea how those crows saved me.

I was talking with Wendy and Millicent this morning on Facebook about our old fun times. It made me cringe, reminding me of my deed. CAF’s birthday is fast approaching. I never do well this time of year. I need to go visit her grave but the thought of doing so makes me physically sick. And it’s worse because I’m the only one who does visit. Two years after her death, it had to be me that reported to the maintenance crew that her grave had started to slide down the hill due to heavy winter rains. I haven’t been out there in years. I know I should go…

One of the things I’d told CAF as she passed was that I’d make sure her children were all right. I failed her in that as much as I failed her as a friend. Thankfully, my assistance wasn’t needed for more than 3 or 4 months after her death. CAF’s husband met a charming woman with 4 kids and they were married soon after. I like to think CAF played a part in that. The family continues to do well.

My guilt remains.