Leila, Always Engaging with Her World

In family life, food on October 15, 2009 at 3:33 am
Ten years ago I attended my soon-to-be husband Ken’s high school reunion at Lawrence Hall of Science, that beautiful location overlooking the SF Bay. In a hall full of strangers Leila came over to me and greeted me with such warmth, as if we were old friends. She knew Ken as David’s old buddy from high school-and I was Ken’s new girlfriend. It seemed to me that Leila had this ability to put people at ease. I immediately felt comfortable with her-and we were soon talking about our mutual experiences living in New York, and how great it was to be in the Bay Area.

Over the next few years Leila came to our wedding, invited us to dinner, shared picnics and parties and political gatherings with us. She and David went out to one of the last Star Wars films with us-a time before the cancer. She came to our son’s baby shower with a knitted cap on her bald head and she was beautiful that day, not morose but celebratory. On other occasions we spent time discussing writing, walking along the Alameda waterfront after a lunch of avocados, tomatoes, sandwiches and other sundries on the meadow at Crab Cove. Leila began writing her novel while in remission-sharing her prose with me. She encouraged me to get back to writing-something I’d given up for too many reasons. Her enthusiasm-her vitality-her will to live and write and explore the things that mattered to her spread and inspired me.

We spent some time journaling together and emailing. Her love of books and the group of writers who surrounded her seemed to carry her towards renewal even in the face of something as all encompassing as the metastatic cancer she lived with for years.

When we last spent time with her alone, we went to a planetarium viewing at Chabot Space & Science Center. We were there with Joseph and Jacob and our son Ethan. Just before the show, the kids ran about while we walked to the telescopes that overlooked the Bay. Leila gazed out at the view, mentioning that she thought it was so beautiful as the fog flowed over the hills across the way and the ocean air caught the douglas fir, cedar and eucalyptus just below where we stood. She seemed to see it with a freshness that is rare. On the walk back inside the museum, Leila told me that she was tired of the drive to UCSF for chemo. She was going to try something new, something a bit experimental, a new way of receiving chemo-had that been what she said? And she was going to be monitored closely by her doctors. I listened, expressed my thoughts as we walked towards the planetarium theater. The boys ran ahead, excited as we climbed the stairs to our seats under the magenta rose dome. As the lights dimmed, Leila watched with awe-the universe opened up to us. And she kept saying that it was so amazing, how incredible that there were so many stars-“magnificent”. This seemed new to her, the immensity of space. She sat next to Joseph and kept saying that it was incredible. We were all amazed by that simulated journey to the outer reaches of the universe. I had hoped to see her again soon after that. But our last chance to see her was brief-We had a few words, a few warm embraces-Her last phrase to me: “Go take that beautiful boy of yours home,” gesturing to Ethan. We will miss her and send all her family our love and condolences.

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