Act 1: Union of two people

Act 2 : Gestation – Birth

Act 3 : Infancy

Act 4 : Childhood

Act 5 : Teens

Act 6 : Twenty-somethin’

Act 7 : Adult

Act 8 : Mid-life

Act 9 : Retirement

Act 10: Final ACT

When we step out onto the stage called life there are many acts that follow. I’ve listed those that mark special times in our lives. I’m certain there are countless acts, but these will suffice.

Last weekend, I made the trek over to Vegas. Gambling, Elvis, food, shows, none it was my focus. I went to Vegas to spend time with my cousin Jackie who is in her Final Act.

Jackie is old enough to be my mother and sometimes she refers to herself that way. She calls me “kid” and “honey”. She told a nurse that she could be my mom, but I was born to another. Jackie never had children of her own so she sort of adopted me. There are moments when she has spoken to me like a mom, with concern or advice. But really, she is a good friend who makes me laugh, cry, yell at poker machines, and see the good in life.

Going to say “Good-bye” to someone is not an easy thing to do. Most of us take it for granted that we will see each other again when we part company. However, when someone is sick and told there is nothing more that can be done, it is a unique opportunity.

Jackie has been fighting cancer for years. In many ways, I think she is a miracle. She has accepted what life has to give and she still found gratitude along the way. Twenty-two years ago I moved to Vegas to help Jackie after she was in a serious car accident. Prior to that, our relationship was more on the surface. I felt if I moved to Vegas and helped her, she in turn could refer business to me… a win-win. It didn’t turn out that way, but we received gifts from each other that we never expected. One that I received was learning gratitude. Jackie taught me a great deal about gratitude and as she fought the battle with cancer, she continued to show me how precious it is to be grateful for each moment of each day.

I am no expert in the gratitude field. I practice and remind myself to find gratitude, especially as I contend with my own demons. However, when gratitude enters my heart, I know I am on the right track. It makes me grateful to Jackie and to myself for taking the opportunity to spend time with a good teacher.

Jackie introduced me to California. Prior to 1993, I hadn’t entered the state of California. Jackie was in real estate and she did land exchanges. My time in Vegas was fairly miserable and when Jackie asked me to join her on a road trip to Yosemite I accepted. We were cruising in her new Cadillac, the car that she felt saved her life in her accident the year prior, when I mentioned my lack of California time. She turned to me and said, “Are you kidding me, you have never been to California?”

I replied, “Nope.”

“Well kid, we’re going to Fisherman’s Wharf, on the doctors. I’ll business expense it.”

And that is what we did. We headed to Fisherman’s Wharf and enjoyed a wonderful seafood dinner, overlooking the Pacific, on the doctors, her employers. Afterwards, we meandered around the shops where she bought me a t-shirt. Then  she drove like a “bat outta hell” to get us to Yosemite before dark. That’s Jackie.

Jackie and I spent a week in the Stanislaus Forest. She worked daily and I hung out at the hotel pool. When she arrived home, exhausted and sometimes frustrated, I worked on her. That’s when we really connected and when Jackie discovered the benefit of receiving natural therapy on a regular basis. Her and I have shared a great deal ever since that moment in time.

Last weekend, when I asked Jackie if she was up for a visit she replied, “No, but come anyway. Oh kid, I need you to rub my legs, they are so swollen.” So, that’s what I did. I went to Sin City to rub Jackie’s legs and spend time with her, more than likely, for the last time.

Prior to the visit I had thought, “I don’t want to be sad.” A voice inside my head said, “Then be happy for Jackie. She will join all of those who went before her and she won’t be in pain anymore.” I took that message to heart and I’m so glad that I did. It made being with Jackie fun, acceptable and memorable.

After being with her all weekend, I wondered what words to say to end our time together. Jackie said to me, “Just be happy kid.” That made me smile.

I held her hand and said, “I’ll see you on the other side.” With tears in my eyes, I left her hospital room and said, “Thank you.” What more is there to say in the Final Act? Be well…. Nancy T