When Stacie died, I regretted not rubbing her feet. I don’t know why I was compelled to rub her feet to begin with, but it felt instinctual. Something to combat the swelling and pain from the chemo. Something holy and nurturing, as if the action of my touch were able to show the love that my words were unable to convey in the moment.
That regret lingered for 3 years, and then Jenny became sick with the same disease. She called me over to her house towards the end.
“Things ain’t good honey. I just wanna tell you sorry, but the fight is over. I’ve got a month or two.” She told me from underneath the quilted blanket that lay across her frail body.
For a moment the dam to my soul broke, and I wept shards of glass right there on her living room couch. She joined in, and there were feelings of impending loss mixed with anger. Anger for not being able to do anything. Anger at the doctors with their medical degrees who couldn’t save her. Anger at millionaires because they didn’t fund a cure fast enough. Anger at anyone who wasn’t emotionally torn to bits. Why did another friend, so fiery, young, an artistic force and wall of feminine strength, have to die at the zenith of her life from breast cancer, an old woman's disease?
The tears raged on for a moment until Jenny's sister, Sarah, entered the room. Then I tucked my emotions neatly away into the manifold of my guts while Jenny swatted at her tears with the edge of her quilt. Our time together was growing short, and it would be useless to waste the last moments on grief.
We all sat on the couch and chatted about unimportant things, funny stories of each other and mutual friends. We laughed when Jenny’s mom popped into the room and began dancing and lip syncing to These boots were made for walking. We talked about anything but the anvil of destruction that lay amidst the wreckage of this dear creature's world.
It was at this moment that I had the urge, the same like before when Stacie was dying, to massage Jenny’s feet. But this time the urge was so strong that I couldn’t overcome it.
“Would you like me to rub your feet?” I asked.
“Oh honey, yes please. I would love that. How did you know that’s what I wanted? And don’t worry, they‘re clean."
I put Jenny’s feet, with the purple peeling polish-stained toes, on my lap and massaged them for the rest of our time together. That time, however, was cut much too short. She was so weak that exhaustion quickly crept upon her, and she needed to be taken to bed not long after. It was the last time that I saw her alive or dead.
Two weeks after Jenny’s death, Stacie came to visit me in a dream, as she occasionally did. But this dream was different. She had a request.
"Will you massage my feet?" She asked.
I nodded yes as she sat down beside me and placed her feet in my lap. Then I gently began to rub.
She hasn't been back since.