Buckets of Love.

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The Ice Bucket Challenge.

We’ve all seen it. For weeks, photos and videos of individuals, businesses, and teams having a bucket of freezing cold water dumped over their heads have been clogging up our Facebook news feeds, and taking over our Twitter.

And people are complaining.

Of course they are.

Why wouldn’t they? After all, they log in to social media to find funny pictures of cats, recipes for The World’s Greatest Fried Green Tomatoes in the World, and to passive-aggressively stalk people they dislike.

They don’t want to see something serious. Photos and videos of a simple act that could actually change and better the lives of thousands of suffering people aren’t entertaining. Prolonging the lives of strangers who simply want to stick around long enough to watch their kids grow up? Come on now, that doesn’t show me how to create a quick and budget-friendly accent for our dinner tonight. What a waste of time! And let’s be honest, seeing people take time and money from their own lives to do something for a charity…well, it’s uncomfortable.

Because we know we probably could donate $10, and dump some of that cold water from our tap – water we pay for, water that comes from our own wells– on ourselves. We could help.

We simply don’t want to.

Instead, we claim it is a shame to waste water for this “stupid idea”, and point to kids in Africa who don’t have clean drinking water.

True. That is sad. Perhaps we could box up our buckets of ice water and send it to them?

No? Yeah. That probably wouldn’t work out all that well.

Of course, if one wanted to, one could do the Ice Bucket Challenge, and donate money to those kids in Africa who need clean drinking water.

But…but then we wouldn’t have enough time to scroll through Grumpy Cat pictures! Or see what kind of foolishness the ex is posting!

Naw. Better to sit tight in our well-cushioned computer chairs and complain.

It’s easier that way.

We can keep our $10 for a super-sized Big Mac meal.

I wonder if these naysayers have ever been diagnosed with a disease that results in shortened life span? Or a chronic disease that limits average daily abilities? An illness that brings more and more excruciating pain with each sunrise? Do these people understand how it feels to look at the future and see hospitalizations, needles, tests and treatments, pills and medical equipment?

Not to mention the astronomical medical bills that come with chronic disease.

I wonder if the naysayers understand what it’s like to feel bleak and alone in a disease, but struggling to look ahead with hope anyway?

And what if that hope looks like a bucket of ice cold water?

Let’s not be silly, people.

Oh hey! Look…Grumpy Cat doesn’t like his tuna sandwich!

Man. That cat cracks me up.

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The Heat, The Rain, and The Long Road Home.

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It’s been just over a year since that day last summer.

That whole week was hot, the kind of sticky heat that lingers on your skin
even after you’ve gotten out of it. We’d walk outside for a bit, then come
back in and drink water bottle after water bottle. Beyond the heat, the
water helped replenish the tears we’d lost and fill our empty bellies. None
of us had been able to eat.

Ever cried in an unbearable heat? It’s strange. Somehow the sun licks away
the saltiness before it ever reaches your mouth.

I’d made my husband take us to the store to buy new dress clothes. We
smiled or barely shook our heads as our daughters twirled from the fitting
rooms in summer dresses, as if we were choosing something to buy for a
school dance instead of a funeral.

She isn’t even gone yet. But she will be. And when it happens, I don’t
  want to have to think. I want everything to be ready.

At the house, the motions of everyday chores took on an overly loud
quality. Mom spent hours each day making my sister’s favorite foods. Mashed
potatoes. Macaroni salad. Summer cake with fruit and vanilla pudding.

My sister couldn’t eat much, really. End stage cancer does that to a
person. But that’s what mothers do, you know? They feed their children.

There were minutes, sometimes hours, when her lucidity left us vying for
attention, and we’d take reluctant turns talking with her or holding her
hand. None of us wanted to lose a moment of recognition or shared smiles,
but there were what, eighteen of us? At least. We had to be fair.

Outside, the sky was perfect summer blue, the clouds fat and white.

Inside, my sister was sweating, though her skin was cold.

We’d been at Mom’s for five days. Friday, my sister was awake and somewhat
jovial, joking with my daughters about trashy TV shows. A calm vibe hung in
the air. We could’ve remained in that limbo forever, I think. Cautious but
steady.

We left for just a little while, running necessary errands. We weren’t far
or gone long, but a heavy sickness sat in my gut. “We have to go back,” I
urged my husband. “Something’s wrong. I feel it.”

The temperature was rising. Heat distorted the air, the way it does when
you look through campfire smoke and everything seems just a little off.

I sat with my sister. She was sleeping, but I held her hand. Through the
window, I saw shadows of summers past: Wet drops from the sprinkler.
Melting popsicles and red rings around our lips. Splashing in the clear
blue water of the pool.

It was the part of the night when one day quietly melds into the next. I’d
dozed off on the couch, and my husband was shaking my shoulder. Wake up.
  It’s happening.

Her breathing was short and shallow, with long, frightening pauses in
between.

My nephew rubbed her arm and sang, “Rock me Mama, like a wagon wheel….”

My daughter rushed from the room, and came back carrying my sister’s two small dogs, arranging them on the
bed near her feet.

My mother said, over and over, “I love you. I love you.”

My little boy rubbed circles on my back and said, “Keep breathing, Mama.
In your nose and out your mouth. We’ll be okay if we just keep breathing.”

Wailing stuttered in my ears, prickling my skin.

We fell asleep on the living room floor after it was over, because of course it had all been just a
dream.

When we woke, the heat wave had broken.

Then came the summer rain.