When I walked into room 4202, I thought I had seen a ghost. Agnes’ skin, flush and full of life last week, was now strikingly pale. Thin wisps of gray hair peeked out from a scalp that had, just three weeks ago, housed flowing curls of rich amber hair. The vibrant body of a tap dancer was now weak and frail, and laboring just to breathe.
In July, Agnes and her 11-year old daughter Mali stayed for many nights in our home. Agnes liked the company and she liked it when we had the A’s game on, even though the TV was in her makeshift room and even though she had never, in her 52 years, paid any attention to baseball. My mother, Agnes’ long time friend and an A’s fan, would watch with us, occasionally explaining some of the rules to Agnes, who didn’t know any of them and wasn’t really about to learn them now. One of my treasured moments occurred one night when the game seemed to end rather suddenly and a sleepy Agnes opened one eye.
“What happened?” she asked.
“We got a double-play!” my mom explained, “So we won the game!”
I can’t help but smile every time I think of how Agnes said “Oh good,” because she meant it sincerely—and yet my mom could just as well have said, “We got a wobbly-woo, so we won the game on a shim-sham!” and Agnes would have replied, “Oh good.” Everything that mattered, though, Agnes had understood perfectly: that she could go to sleep now, that my mom and I were happy, and that she wasn’t alone. It was good.
We took Agnes’ daughter, Mali, out to a Chinese restaurant on a Tuesday night in July. Her fortune cookie said something good was going to happen in a week. Mali made a silent pact that she would give up her right hand, and in exchange, next Tuesday her mom would start to get better until she was ok again. All week, Mali’s spirits were raised knowing that everything was going to be fine after all, because of the fortune cookie. It seems almost too cruel that Agnes died that Tuesday morning.
“Something good was supposed to happen!” Mali cried. “Why do I have to lose my mom?” I don’t know why. All I know is that baseball and cancer are so very different. In baseball, you don’t know who is going to win, and in baseball there is always tomorrow. I think of all the “why”s I have asked throughout the Summer. “Why would you bring in Kennedy?” “Why pitch to Vlad?” “Why can’t we hit with runners in scoring position, and why can’t our team stay healthy?” And then a child asks, “Why do I have to lose my mom?” and you think of this baseball season, and all its disappointments, and you realize that it’s actually ok. It really is.