I was moving stiffly, cautiously when I woke up the morning after attending Lisa Colagrossi’s memorial service as I struggled to wrap my brain around the fact that we’d said or goodbyes and life must continue. I grunted and groaned with every step towards my closet to select what I’d where to work, back to Eyewitness News where we both used to work less than a week before. I did not complain but I was at a loss about what to wear.
Does it matter, I thought, as I stated at the hangers in front of me.
I’d been equally baffled the day before as I struggled to decide what to where to Lisa’s memorial service after work. I knew the color had to be black to reflect the darkness I felt in my heart since her passing. I also figured it had to be comfortable because I was inning behind the wheel for an hour and fifteen minute ride to Stamford without my pain medication or muscle relaxers for the first time in years.
I knew trying to function without drugs was going to be hard. In fact, a part of me was okay with the fact that my inside was reflecting the emotional agony within me. However, I was certain I needed to say goodbye and I’d hope communing, in person with others, would release me from the sense of helplessness I’d felt since her death.
I suppose, since I learned of her passing, I wondered if I’d sufficiently told Lisa how much her kindness towards me meant. I longed to have the words to tell her family of her impact to try to ease their pain. I desired to find a way to make sure she was remembered for dedicating her life and sacrificing sleep and with her family, like me and my colleagues, to educate and inform the public about the news of the day.
Feeling helpless is nothing new to me. I’ve spent years with that emotion, ever since doctors told me my misdiagnosed, and therefore, untreated connective tissue disorder may have caused me to develop lymphoma. Two years and five surgeries for lymph node removal, as well as dozen of scans, pills, exams, and doctors’ visits late, I often felt as if there was little I could do about my health. I was, and will always be chronically ill. Yet, hopelessness wasn’t in my vocabulary. Perhaps I have a strong will. More importantly, I always had people like Lisa spurring me on to keep fighting. Now one of my daily cheerleaders is gone and I wasn’t able to push her, to save her.
I must admit, when news of her brain aneurysm spread, I pondered why it wasn’t me in the hospital bed. I had the connective tissue disorder that was a risk factor for a rupture; Id had two strokes while Lisa was healthy, vibrant, happy and full of faith during the same time. I heard about her energy at her standing room only masses filled journalists from nearly every New York station, who put aside rivalry to mourn. Every there kneeled, prayed and cried as one, along with boys from Lisa’s son’s team, her parents, siblings and the clergy at her church, who knew her well.
No one knew her better than her husband, Todd, and he rose and brought comfort to us all with his moving eulogy to the woman with whom he spent 15 years. He choked back tears but he was strong, seemingly at peace with his devastating loss. He appeared to take solace in his memories of Lisa, with their life together which included two resilient boys. He was going to soldier on. If he was going to do that, how could I not?
I thought about Todd as I dragged myself out of the shower yesterday, one day after his moving tribute. As I stood there, just then, on Good Morning America, there was news of Angelina Jolie’s decision to remove her ovaries and Fallopian tubes. I aged a tear hearing some of the words from her article about why she made such as radical choice. According the story, Jolie didn’t want her children to every have to say their mom died from ovarian cancer. She refused to be helpless. She took her health into her own hands and made a decision that might give her more time with her children. Angelina got to do what Lisa had not.
Yet, I thought again about Todd’s speech. He mentioned how Lisa’s sons got to say goodbye and make sure their mom had last rites so she would be absolved of her son’s and make it to Heaven, where they believe they’d see her again. They too chose not to be helpless in the only way they could. They couldn’t save their mom’s body but they saved helped her save her soul. I thought, if Lisa’s family can shed their feeling of helplessness and Angelina can do the same, surely it’s not impossible for me to make the best of my circumstance and fight until the life drains from me.
I was feeling empowered as I hobbled to the bus stop, nearly oblivious to the pain; that’s because I understand I am not a slave to my body. I am the master of my soul; that’s all I can control and that’s more than enough.
If you would like to donate to Lisa’s sons:
Checks may be sent to:
Lisa Colagrossi Memorial Trust
P.O. Box 13
Frankenmuth, Michigan 48734
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