George once told me, "Beating the lung cancer was easy--it was the pneumonia afterward that almost killed me." (If you smoke, please quit.) And that's pretty much where my mother-in-law is right now, except that she also has brain cancer. (Yes, I know that quitting smoking is one of the hardest things a person can do, harder than I can possibly imagine. Please try anyway.)
The current crisis is going pretty well. Every day, some major indicator improves--oxygen absorption, blood sugar, mental clarity. We'd all be feeling great about her progress, if it weren't for the awareness that this crisis will be, at best, the first of many.
Even if she doubles her oncologist's most optimistic guess, she won't be around long enough for my son to remember her fierce intelligence, her endless fascination with the American Revolution, the joy she takes in a table-thumping political argument. She'll be a character in family stories recounted in layers of interruption and elaboration over the Thanksgiving table, a collection of photographic images, an MP3 file of a laugh punctuated with coughing.
(If you smoke, please, please quit.)