The subsequent message to my sister-in-law on April 19th breaks me in two.

I found myself with a few minutes before it is time for a pregnancy check- up this morning, so thought I’d email. Present to the moment…a wonderful goal, but pretty hard I think. I am not good at it at all. My new attempt to see the big picture or whatever is working ok, especially with work. But I have not been “present” to my own moments and certainly not to Michael…but we are working on it.

An old friend just sent me a huge box of maternity clothes that included things like 10 of the same maternity t-shirts from Target (half in black). I feel rich. Well, off to take my achy bod to pee in a cup. This email turned out to be a bit blah, but there is a fog in my brain!

This email begins a whole series of exchanges, mostly utilitarian, full of baby lists and requests. Then, on June 14th, exactly one week from our anniversary and exactly two weeks before Langston will be induced, Emily writes to another old friend, one who will become indispensable to me over the next few years as I wrestle with the bureaucracy that accompanies widowers and single-parents:

Things are ok here…I developed gall bladder trouble in the last week or so and lost a lot of time and energy to feeling really rotten and going to the Doc. I think it is slowly getting better (though I have had to cut out all fat from my diet, which is much harder than I expected…not craving, but just thinking of things I can eat beyond fruit and veggies). But baby seems to be fine…at least that worry is getting better all the time.

Today is Virginia’s last day of school, so I guess this afternoon she is a kindergartener! Crazy. Anne and Frank are coming early next week for a visit. I really hope it goes well…hope I feel like enjoying the company and hope Anne and I get along well…I’ve become very sensitive (easily irritated?) by things so have to hope hard.

Michael and I are getting ready to celebrate out tenth anniversary next week too. He’s taking me to a production of the Tempest and (if I can eat by then) out to dinner. He’s hired a babysitter and everything—our first big grown-up D.C. outing.

The next email shocks me when I read it because I haven’t noticed the date it was sent—August 4, twelve days after her diagnosis. She’s writing to the same friend to confirm her plans to visit and help:

This will be quick as am dopey and achy but all generally ok today. All your thoughts and notes mean so much.

The dates you suggested look great at this point—especially the 26th of August through the first of September or so—things of course change…I hope to go to Johns Hopkins for a second consultation, as yet unscheduled. Aug 27 V’s first day and the 30th is another chemo session.

I hope a little of this makes sense b/c can’t sit here anymore.

The voice of the last email sent from the account takes me out of the place I go every time I dip back into these messages. The voice, its mechanical hope, repels me because it is my own. I’m writing to another old friend of Emily’s who is coming into town, which means Emily is no longer able to respond.

It’s too late to call, so this will have to do. Emily was admitted back into the hospital today for a possible infection and they’re likely to keep her there for at least a couple of days. We’ll know more tomorrow. I know it’s hard not to have your stomach sink when you here about these things, but the doctors seem to take this in stride and keep telling us that we’re just going to have to find a way to get through these niggling hiccups, always keeping the bigger picture in mind.

And there have been encouraging developments. The chemo is working. One of her enzymes is now within normal limits and they’re pretty sure the effect on the cancer has been “dramatic.” For my part, I can tell you her liver, which once extended below her navel, is now back up where it’s supposed to be under her ribcage. The ER docs thought so too.

All this means that you might be on your own getting from the airport to our apartment…Someone will be there to let you in, but it probably won’t be me…Call our number when you get there, and someone will wither come down or toss you the keys from the window.

The record of sent messages ends with my voice because the voice of the woman I loved has already fallen silent.

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