My back hurts. Ongoing, it’s pretty tight on the lower right, but today it’s radiating across to the left as well. Meanwhile, the area around the right shoulder blade feels pretty jammed up, but it’s all relative. When the low part screeches, I forget about the other stuff.

I run a little scared from my back pain. All of my older sisters have it to varying degrees, both parents have it. It doesn’t make sense that long spines should have the same number of discs and vertabrae as short ones, but here we are. But it’s not everyday pain that troubles me, it’s the fact that things tend to go pretty badly wrong amongst the sibs, and I keep wondering if I’m next.

Of course, I’ll take the chronic pain, which so far is miniscule compared to what 2 sisters are going through. Pain connects me with mortality, and what I deal with is definitely preferable to any number of awful conditions. In the last year, 3 women I knew to varying degrees have died; all were born within 2 years of me on either side. For years, I figured I had gotten my share of dead comrades in the early years of AIDS, with 6 close friends and a husband felled too early. But now, 2 women have lost the fight against cancer, both of them leaving teenagers behind. Meanwhile, a year ago today, my sister-in-law Holly, who had been coping with lupus for a couple of years, had no idea that she had less than 2 weeks to live, her life snapped off by a crazed gunman.

When I think of death, I mainly worry about my kids. I don’t even like to think or write about it, it seems like tempting fate. But that’s my fear, that it would really suck for the kids. And yet, kids survive. I watch the Eldest’s best friend, whose mom died early Saturday morning after a long fight with cancer. I know he’s devastated, and yet he’s still capable of smiling; I saw him last night when he came to pick up the Eldest. I look at my nephew, also devastated, yet soldiering on with extraordinary strength. I know my friend E’s daughters are gutting it out. Kids are strong.

That strength has to come from their mothers, at least in part. Every one of the kids mentioned watched their moms cope with all sorts of stuff with grace and humor. Now the kids have to pick up the torch. Way too early, but they still have to pick it up.

I’m hugely blessed in that my mom is still alive, and that I can still watch her and learn from her, but more than anything, just give her a yell and talk to her in a way that I can’t talk to anyone on earth. But when she dies, I know that I can still do it. I’ll just have to learn to listen in a new way.

Be nice today. Be strong. Be loving. Be graceful. Leave a good legacy.

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