August 2, 2023
3 Minutes

Making Plans: Leon’s Story

Maya Devincenzi Dil

I met Kira on my first day at university. I was a gangly freshman, and she was two years my senior – smart, expressive, and beautiful. I was head over heels from day one.

We were different but balanced each other out. She followed her heart, and I followed my head. She was social, I was more introverted. She led by intuition, and I made plans. We knew how important it was to talk – often, and about everything. We wanted to understand each other, and we were good at finding common ground.

And then she got cancer. She was forty-five, and our children were eight, ten, and twelve. All Kira knew was that she wanted to be here for as long as possible, to stay with the children. Whatever the treatment, diet, or therapy – she’d try it. I was always the practical one, so it was my job to think about the logistics. How would her treatments affect her? Was quality or quantity of life more important? How would we support the family with only one of us working?

Driving back from our first consultation with the oncologist, we discussed what to tell the children. They were young, but not too young to realise something was wrong. Telling them the truth was the hardest but bravest thing she could have done, and she did it.

That was the first of many, many talks. Right from the start, nothing was off the table. The first thing our oldest boy asked was “Mum, are you going to die?”

Kira was honest, but hopeful. She said, “It’s a possibility, but a low one. We’re going to treat it.”

Then we were told the cancer had spread, and our talks took on a different tone. We didn’t know how much time Kira had. At home we kept an open door policy for family and friends, so the house was often buzzing with people. We were good at accepting help, like when the neighbours offered to cook dinners and pick the kids up from school.

Everyday we had together as a family was precious. Dinner time was family time. We’d share our days, stories from work, school – normal things. After the kids were in bed, Kira and I would talk. She wanted to make new memories with the children and the people she loved.

Kira wanted to prepare for when she wasn’t there. She recorded herself singing bedtime lullabies for our children, and a friend suggested she make them a book about her life. It was a good idea, and Kira brought it to life, filling her book with photos and memories. She wanted our children to know who she was, and to hear the stories she would have told them as they grew older.

It’s been seven years since Kira passed away. Although the space she left can never be filled, I’m grateful we lived that last year the way we did. We didn’t shy away from difficult conversations and faced our fears together. That made all the difference – not only then, but also now, in how we all remember her and go on.

Written by Maya Devincenzi Dil

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