Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Elegy

She was beautiful. Big brown eyes and a veritable mane of dark brown, unruly hair. A crooked tooth gave her a interesting smile.

She was sarcastic and wry. I was always glad that I wasn’t the subject of her witheringly funny scrutiny. She could cut through bullshit in about two seconds flat. You never wondered what she thought about anything--she was always happy to tell you.

She grew up in a beach town and she was in love with the ocean. Her blog carried a quote from Isak Dinesen: “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” She knew something about tears--and she knew how to laugh, too.

She was fiercely loyal to her friends, including me. And she was loving--to her son, to her family and friends, and even to a few people who didn’t deserve it.

She exemplified Jesus about as well as anyone I’ve ever known. She gave up on organized religion after her young son was diagnosed with a chronic illness and the faith community in which he was baptized at sunrise on an Easter morning never called to see how he was or visited him in the hospital. I can’t say I blame her for that--in fact, it grieves me in a special way, because those apathetic folks were “my people”--Episcopalians. But she walked the walk a hell of a lot better than most people who just like to tell you about their love for Jesus.

She never caught a break. She never went to college. Never really had much in the way of a career--certainly not something with benefits. Her one great love broke her heart when he left their marriage. Late in life, she had the son she loved above all with a man who didn’t deserve either of them.

She was a loving, good woman, friend, and mother, and she never caught a break.

*********************************

She died of cancer yesterday. She died at age 50, leaving that 10-year-old boy with the chronic illness without her fierce love and protection. God only knows what his life will be like now.

She died because she was poor, and because she didn’t have health insurance.

She died because, when she started having pain and other symptoms almost five years ago, she didn’t go to the doctor because she couldn’t afford it. What might have been easily curable had it been caught early was a death sentence by the time she was no longer able to bear the pain and dragged herself to the emergency room.

She died because the people in this country are so fucking selfish that they have fought healthcare reform tooth and nail.

She died because she didn’t have the good fortune to be born in a country that doesn’t CLAIM to be “Christian”--like any developed nation in Europe or the United Kingdom. (Where my mother, who suffers from chronic health problems, has received the best healthcare she’s ever gotten...so spare me your ignorant diatribes about the National Health Service in the U.K.)

My friend spent her last years suffering not only the pain of cancer but the indignity of having to worry about how she was going to pay her rent and feed her child. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer 2½ years ago, and was able to get Social Security disability payments only nine weeks ago.

It sickens me to type that.

If you are one of those people who believes that universal healthcare is a socialist plot and has fought reform that would enable every American to have decent healthcare, I hold you personally responsible for her death. You are complicit in murder, and you should fall to your knees and beg God’s forgiveness for your selfishness and your hardness of heart.

If it were in my power, I would force you to look that 10-year-old boy in the face and explain to him why it is okay that his mother is dead so that you could have a few more dollars in your pocket for your Starbucks lattes or your cable television service. Or why it it was okay for you to keep your “Cadillac healthcare plan” while his mother had none.

If you could do that, you are beyond help and may God have mercy on your soul--for you will get none from me.

If you could do that, I hope that you at least have the grace not to call yourself a Christian.

And if you couldn’t--if you couldn’t look that sweet boy in the face and say something so hardened and callous that it would make the angels weep--you need to be on the phone to your elected representatives, telling them to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Demanding that they make changes--no matter what the cost--so that no person on this earth will die in agony, and no child will be left motherless, because we don’t have the will to do the most basic thing that Jesus asked of us: “Love one another.”

**********************************************************

This is what my friend, Terri-Lynn—funny, loyal, loving woman that she was—wrote about herself:

Where I'm From

I am from sand dollars and Sea and Ski
and the whole world contained in a tidal pool.
I am from overdue library books and Oreos
and tea parties after school.

I am from a tiny Riverside kitchen, abundant in love
and children
and molasses-filled biscuits.
I am from squeaky screen doors and sun-dried linens
and the golden promise of forsythia.

I am from the wild tangle of honeysuckle
the salt-cured planks of the pier
the cool green sanctuary under the willow tree.

I am from walks by the ocean and foolish pride,
from Lilla and Thelma
and Carolyn-now-Lynn.

I am from mule-headed stubborn and talking too much,
from singing along and dancing fools.
I am from Murphy was an optimist and bless your heart.
I am from the best part of the day.

I am from Jesus loves me
just as I am.
I am from dinner on the grounds and I'll fly away oh glory
and Jesus Christ Superstar.

I am from Edgecombe County and the muddy Tar,
from forbidden dunes and the endless Atlantic.
I am from ham biscuits,
butterbeans shelled this morning
and Pop's peach ice cream.

I am from the girl who sang with the band
and won the heart of the soldier,
from the milkman's daughter and the man with no voice
(he loved to fish).

I am from pirates and poets and painters
All of the gifts; none of the glory.
I am from Mason's shrine and Granny's cedar chest,
from Daddy's photographs and Tracy's poems.

I am from crocheted blankets, delicate as lace,
from cut-glass dishes and perfectly seasoned cast-iron skillets.
I am from familiar melodies and forgotten secrets
and a million grains of sand.


*********************************************************************

Rest in peace, Terri-Lynn Sykes. It was my great privilege to know you and to be your friend. And it is my great shame and sorrow that we failed you and your son.

Father of all, we pray to you for Terri-Lynn., and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest.Let light perpetual shine upon them. May her soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.


Terri-Lynn and Doxy with boys
at the North Carolina State Fair
Fall 2004

61 comments:

Maggie said...

Thank you for sharing your friend Terri-Lynn. May she rest in peace, and may we all be moved to work for health care for all. I pray that God and a loving family member will care for her son. Hugs to you.

it's margaret said...

Doxy --I am so sorry for your loss. Please know I will hold you and the young Mr. Sykes in my prayers.

May she rest in peace.

Lisa Fox said...

Doxy, I am terribly sorry. God, how this must hurt.
You post is beautiful and heart-breaking, and your rage is righteous.
May peace come upon you ... when the time is right.

8thdayplanner said...

I lost my closest friend under very similar circumstances over 20 years ago. It is our national shame that in all those years we still have not provided health care to those in need.

My prayers for you, your friend and her family.

susankay said...

This sucks and is evil. The whole health care thing is very, very bad -- and also STUPID in terms of health care economics.

I would also write about how my mother's much loved church abandoned her as my father sunk into Alzheimers except that I get incoherent with anger.

And then I am completely blown away by how much my sisters and brothers in Integrity stick with being Episcopalians despite our very tawdry behavior. They have greater trust than I would.

(I loved that you and Dear Husband put that wonderful statement into your wedding leaflet. My dear love and I used a "Proposed Liturgy for Same Sex Marriages" when we married in 1998 -- our rector wasn't allowed to use it for GLBT couples but we found it transcendent.)

susankay said...

And I should say that I pray -- not particularly for Terri Lynn because she is somewhere absolutly magical -- but for her son and for the people of the United States who killed her. (I keep forgetting to pray -- so sorry)

Jane R said...

I am angered and moved and I grieve with you. May righteous anger move us to change, with Terri-Lynn and her son's faces --and so many more-- before our eyes.

Missy said...

Doxy, I'm so sorry for your loss and for Terri Lynn's son.
I couldn't agree with you more on the subject of healthcare.
What a beautiful eulogy.

Out of the depths I have cried unto Thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Oh, Doxy, I am so sorry. May Terri-Lynn rest in peace and rise in glory. May Terri-Lynn's precious son find a home with folks who will love him. May God give him comfort, consolation, and peace.

What happened to Terri-Lynn is despicable, unconscionable, wicked, and wrong in every way.

What a beautiful tribute to your friend and what a powerful indictment of our country and its citizens.

Lord, have mercy!

Paul said...

Oh s**t.

Sorry, Doxy, but that is how I pray when I am grieved and appalled and words fail me.

I am so very sorry to learn of her death, of her son's plight, and the gross evil willfulness that structures the world this way (I won't call it stupidity, it is willful evil).

Rage. Weep. And when the calm comes may the Spirit bathe you in sweet oil of healing. And arm you for ongoing battle.

FranIAm said...

Oh Doxy, I am sitting here weeping and feeling sorrow and rage at once.

I am so sorry for Terri-lynn's senseless death and for her son and for the countless others who have, do or will suffer because of the clusterfuck that is the US healthcare system.

Many prayers of peace and rest for her, prayers of hope for her son and just so many prayers of love for you, fiercest and loyalest of friends.

sharecropper said...

Oh Hon, I want to say, "not now, not this way, not ever!" We among the privileged with health care insurance must join with our brothers and sisters to make what we have available to all.

My love to you and to her son.

and, with Missy, I quote Psalm 130 - O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

Kirstin said...

Oh, dear God.

You know I stand with you.

gayle said...

Thank you for sharing your grief and your anger and your love here, Doxy--I feel it all come so powerfully through your words, and I mourn your friend's loss, and the tragic state of our health care system, right along with you. It is stories like your friend's and channeled outrage like yours that can bring change, I truly believe it. May we see that change soon. Sending love your way...

pj said...

Oh Doxy. Sweetheart. This was a crime, and I'm so, so sorry.

susan s. said...

I am so sorry. Prayers for you and her son.

Jane R said...

For you and all of us, with some links.Lament: the beginning of work for justice.

Barbi Click said...

May God have mercy...

Pru said...

Doxy,
My condolences on losing a beautiful friend in a way killed by our health care non-system. I feel so foolish and helpless. If you want me to write to a Congressman, help me figure out how!
Pru

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Aw, Doxy, I am so sorry.

As Lisa said, your anger is righteous.

But I'm afraid a lot of attitudes are going to have to change first. sigh

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Doxy, I'm so sorry for your loss, and I embrace you for turning your anger into such a brilliant post.

Catherine + said...

I give thanks for her life, and that you could be part of it with her sons. I, like many of us here, are angered at how she and others like her are treated by this country and government every day. One day you will find some peace, Doxy, and I will keep you and the young boys in my heartfelt prayers. Indeed, may light perpetual shine upon her.

lindy said...

I am so sorry for you loss, Doxy. What a heartbreaker. I know you will miss your friend, and it is so unfair to have lost her in this way. My you have some peace, and heal well.

Quit Bloglin' Me said...

Oh Doxy, this one broke my heart. I love her poem. I keep thinking about her little boy. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to worry about how to pay for health care. We bitch about how long things take up here, but it's so much better than nought.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

What the others have said - Prayers ascending!

IT said...

It's wrong. It's wrong that cynical politicians manipulate poor people into resentment of those that will help them. It's wrong that we live in a country that daily becomes more third-world, in part because our population can't afford a passport and a plane ticket to see what it's like in the civilized world. And today of all days, there is just TOO much wrong with EVERYTHING.

Saint Pat said...

I have been passionate about the need for socialized health care for years. I have been on the end of having no health insurance - even working full time. I've seen too many people suffer without health care or be bankrupt by it. Or decided whether they can put groceries on the table or buy prescription drugs. Our system is rotten with corporate greed on the part of providers and insurance lobbyists in high places. May they be put out of business.

baxterkaunefamily said...

She knew we love her, Doxy. It is the only comfort I have right now. Kirsten

motheramelia said...

I am so sorry for you in your grief, for her son in his and for our country in its shame. Health care is a right.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'm so sorry. May Terri-Lynn rest in peace, may her son find a loving parent, and may you find the comfort of your faith.

Diane said...

Doxy, you are right: what happened is a crime and I pray we have the guts and the stamina to demand a more just health care system.

(like you, I worry though)

this and many more stories need to be told.

Pisco Sours said...

Doxy, I am so sorry for your loss and feel just awful for Terri-Lynn's son. We are simply not a serious nation when we can bicker about whether someone sticks their Tab A into an approved Slot B but can't actually take care of our citizens as one would hope the social contract demands.

I think this country is irretrievably broken. It was a nice run though.

David said...

dear Doxy
writing as a Canadian who has had National Medicare for all Canadians as long as I can remember, I'm often saddened and angered by the reality of a country which calls itself the wealthiest in the world, but which is more willing to invest in nuclear arms and multiple wars rather than to look after its own people with something as obvious as health services.

trust your rage Doxy.
my prayers for that son is that he won't now fall into the hands of some governmental agency.

hugs

David@Montreal

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Bless you all for your kind words. At some point, I hope I can share them with TL's family.

FYI---Today, Dear Friend and I are traveling, so I may not be able to let comments through until late tonight or tomorrow.

Love,
Doxy

johnieb said...

A post eloquent with love and anger at gross injustice; she was blessed to have you as a friend, Doxy, as, apparently from her work, you were in her. May she rest in peace and rise in glory, and may may her son be healed and consoled.

As with so many issues these days, the people seem well ahead of the
Congress Critters on this. I read a comment on the legislative prospects for health care this morning while waiting on the coffee. It mentions 1) cost reductions, 2) fixing uncompetitive markets, and 3) changing the way medicine is practiced as critical elements of a legislative package: nothing at all about universal coverage.

Sickening.

Suzer said...

Thank you for sharing Terri-Lynn's life with us. I so agree with you about the healthcare system -- it is a shame, and a crime, that our country can't seem to do better for its citizens. And, yes, it is usually the privileged or those with great health insurance already who rail against "socialized" healthcare.

Prayers for Terri-Lynn's family, and especially for her young son.

You should send your post to the Obama administration. Maybe it will catch someone's attention.

E H Culver said...

I pray for national healthcare in the U.S., and I pray for the kind that will provide quick response to illness. I know from working in preventive medicine for years that early diagnosis and treatment are essential.
I'm so sorry for everyone's loss of a mother and a good friend.
"Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon her."

Tash said...

I'm here via a mutual friend of Teri-Lynn's: I'm so incredibly sorry for your loss, and for the grief of her son. And I'm wildly angry and heartbroken at how the system leaves these gaping holes that swallow up much needed and loved human beings. I hope all of her friends can turn their fierce love and deep grief into angry action on this very subject, in her honor and memory.

Peace to all of you. I'm so sorry.

MadPriest said...

I was so touched by this post that I posted my own response in which I recommended a way of viewing universal healthcare that might be bought into by even the right wing.

I thought it would be well received but I have been savaged by your fellow Americans for daring to suggest there is anything wrong with your healthcare system.

I don't think Americans like to be criticised and w
they will defend the indefensible rather than admit they have got something wrong.

Two Auntees said...

Doxy, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, Terri Lynn, for the miserable way our health care system failed her.

Our health care system has been in shambles for a long while now. I formerly worked for public health in my state and provided care for those who had no other access to health care. When we found problems in people, we had to beg in their behalf to get care for them. This is WRONG!

I will continue to work for health care for everyone.

Keta said...

D - thank you for sharing your elegant and eloquent tribute to your friend, for expressing so powerfully your grief and rage and for sharing her astounding poem. I write this with tears streaming down my face, knowing that many more will suffer and die before the powers that be get it. Love, K

Sally said...

speechless and prayerful....

Dianne said...

I come by from Fran's
My heart is killing me at this moment, your words are so powerful and so heartbreaking because they are so true

I lost my insurance in December after getting hurt in August - and I'm still waiting for disability and Medicaid tells me to give up my home and then maybe they'll help me - I don't even own it on my own

I'm not angry for me, I'm furious for TL's son - my child is grown

This f'ing country has it's priorities backwards

I too think you should send this to Obama, he is a huge disappointment to me and needs to be constantly reminded of who really elected him

Bless you, everyone should have just one friend like you

Ann said...

So sorry for your loss - what a beautiful person and angry for the way it happened - regardless of what MP says - most of us are working for change in our system. Keeping on.

thejanet said...

Dearest Doxy, I was committed to this fight for health care before now, but now you've given me a name, a person, a reason to make it real personal. So I commit to you and the memory of Terri-Lynn, and recommit to all, my promise to not stop fighting for what is right until the effort is won. I will pray for her son for forever, for he will need my prayers in fact many prayers his whole life. As do we all. May Terri-Lynn rest in peace, and may the rest of us not rest in peace until her death is no longer a common story. However many times we must say "never again" until it is reality. that we can say "never again" in truth, we will say it each time and eventually we will make it so. Much love and prayers, Janet

Magdalene6127 said...

Doxy, this is so powerful... in your grief you have articulated something so important.

Would you be willing to submit it as an op-ed piece to, say, the New York Times? If that sounds just grossly inappropriate... please forgive me. But I have been so moved and haunted by this, and have shared it with so many, I believe it needs to be widely read.

If this feels crass and opportunistic, please forgive. But there is great power and love and righteous anger in these words I think this country needs to hear.

Davis said...

May God rest her soul and care for her loved ones and a prayer, too, for you, dear kind soul for this elegy.

susankay said...

Doxy -- I would suggest that at the very least, all of us who post here and all their friends demand of their Senators and Representatives that they support Universal HealthCare. And, if you have given money to their campaigns -- point that out.

Lisa Fox said...

Doxy,back when I posted my first not here (Tuesday), my focus was upon you, her her family, and the grief you are feeling.

Now I ses that many people are talking about the travesty that is our national-health care in the U.S.

So I share this little snippet from my own hsitory.

Back in the late '90s, I was between jobs. I had no health insurance. I made it abundantly clear that if I were injured or found to be very sick, my friends were not to take me to hospital, and especially not to take me to an Emergency Room. I made it clear they should let me die rather than incur the massive expensive charges that a hospital would incur. I knew that a serious hospitalization would bankrupt me, and I made it clear I would rather die instead.

MadPriest -- and others commenting here from truly civilized countries -- are exactly right. There is something profoundly broken in the U.S. in what purports to be our "health care" system.

But how to fix it, how to mend it? There's the question. I don'[t have the answer.

I return to your friend's situation. She did not have to die. She did not need to die. If only we had a civilized health care system in the U.S.. I am SO SORRY, Doxy. And I am especially sorry that this insidious system cost you a dear friend.

terri c said...

Brilliant post and your friend's poem is brilliant also. I am so sorry for your loss and I share your righteous rage. BTW, I have two advanced degrees and am working in a professional field but am not covered by health insurance.

Ken said...

I did indeed link you and Jane to my own blog, but took down the entire posting. Not because Terri-Lynn wasn't worth the anger but because I could not "at the end of the day" bring myself to wish dead the children of one of the loudest opponents of single-payer health systems. Damning someone else's kids through their father (his last name is Hannity) is as reprehensible as the system that allowed Teri-Lynn to be fed to the meat grinder. You have a talent for invective I lack. You can display anger without it spilling over into incoherent rage. I lack that gift; but am grateful for the chance to comment upon your grief and anger, and hope with others that your friend, beyond her pain, will set an example for us to follow.

kenju said...

I was happy to call Terri Lynn a blog friend, and although I didn't know her well - even in that regard - I knew she was someone special. Thank you for this wonderful tribute to her.

Redhead said...

This needs to be published so the whole nation can see it. I loved Terri l,'s blog. never met her in person, but loved her joy in her son and her ferocious fight. This is all so sad and goes on every day. Blue Cross Blue Sheild have already started lobbying against universal health care.What does that tell you? Evacuate the Middle East and come back and care for our own. Let those fools over there figure it out- not our job.Please send this to every national newspaper and Reader's Digest and anyone else who will publish it. You are a wonderful writer!

Jennifer said...

This post makes me so angry, and fills me with so much rage at the injustice in this world.

I am honored and proud to have called Terri-Lynn a friend, one I was so very lucky to meet through this great big mystery known as the internet. I drove to Wilmington to visit her once, because after two years of friendship through typed messages on each other's blogs, I couldn't let another week go by without meeting her in person and hugging her neck. I'm so grateful to have had that opportunity.

I went to UNC Hospital once to sit with her during a chemo treatment. When I got there, she was wearing a tiara, a crown perched atop that gorgeous mane of hers, with her beloved music plugged into her ears. When I poked my head around the corner, she beamed like no other, putting me at ease, in a very uncomfortable place, in about two seconds flat.

I last heard from her about four weeks ago; a message of congratulations on my recent relocation back to my home state. "I'll miss you, my friend," she wrote. "But it's wonderful to see you so happy at home."

TL? You'll never know how much you meant to me, how much I've thought about you, and wish so much for Liam to have all the things in life you worked so hard to give.

I'll miss you, my friend. My you finally be at peace, without pain, and home.

God Bless.

Fergie said...

this is a beautiful elegy, Doxy.

And yes, our Healthcare system sux. I've got my own rant on the topic, but then, apparently I just live in this country, I'm not patriotic (and look what over the top patriotism did for Germany, hmmm) enough to be a Real American.

What can I do to help this young man?

deb said...

Wow! How very sad!

Micki said...

Thank you for this. I love my country, and I am proud to be American but I am, and long have been DEEPLY ASHAMED at the way we treat the basic needs of life as profit centers, so that the CEOs of huge corporations can live lives of impossible luxury off the premiums of everyday people.

I am, and long have been DEEPLY ASHAMED that we, as a country, are seeing worse and worse outcomes in comparison with nearly EVERY country in the world (including a whole lot of third world ones), and we pay THREE TIMES AS MUCH for our lousy outcomes.

And.

After all that, people are dying from diseases that are curable, or going bankrupt, or losing the ability to provide for their children when they are dead, so that we can keep this same crappy crappy system.

I am so sorry. I wish that I had known Terri Lynn. She sounds like one hell of a great friend.

Mary Beth said...

So sorry for this travesty. Thank you for your brave sharing of the story...this is the only way we will make a change. I believe it.

anita said...

Doxy......I am TL's baby sister Anita. I dont think that we have ever met, but I just want you to know that what you wrote about her was beautiful and powerful and wonderful, but heartbreaking all over again as if she just passed today. I read this when my mom was in the hospital having a double mastectomy on August 22,2009. I sat in a heaping mess bawling my eyes out missing her and praying that my mother, who took care of TL while she was sick, would come out of surgery ok.
Thank you.....for being a wonderful friend, and an advocate on her behalf for the crappy healthcare system. My family and I are grateful for all the people that she had in her life that loved her and Liam so dearly. Thank you, and may God bless you in so many ways. TL is looking down on us all.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Anita--now *I'm* crying....

I didn't know your mom was also dealing with cancer. That is just WAY too much for any family to have to bear. Please e-mail me at the address in my profile and let me know how she is doing.

TL was a great friend to me, at a time when people I thought I could count on turned their backs on me. I miss her more than I can possibly tell you--and you would laugh if you knew how often I channel her. "I love ________ better than Peter loved the Lord!" and "I'm about to have a fit and fall in it" are two of my favorite TL lines. ;-)

I have become an absolute bulldog about healthcare reform because of her. I am passionate about many things--but witnessing what happened to your sister has turned me into a crusader. I don't seem to be having much effect at the moment, but I swear to you, for love of her, I will NEVER give up on this.

Love,
Doxy

TheraP said...

This is late, of course, but heartfelt condolences are never really "late" - are they? You will never forget her. I am so sorry for your loss. (and her son....)

And you WILL see her again. Read this:

http://wisdom4nothing.blogspot.com/2009/08/mystery-lifts-its-veil.html

I'm honestly thinking we should post this tribute to your friend at TPM as well. Now is crunch time for health care. And this would be a perfect "lesson" for why we need it. (Your call.) This is an extraordinary piece of writing. But then you and she deserved such a beautiful memorial to your friendship.