SMITH: I guess the hardest part for me, other than the pain she was in, was being in a state of confusion as to what was the proper way to go. We had physicians on one side saying one thing, and alternative people saying another. I certainly didn't feel qualified to determine what was best; all I could do was get the best advice available. Part of the confusion was that many well-meaning friends, who had been through cancer and survived, had a solution for us. But the trouble was, it was a solution for a different problem because cancer is not just one disease. It's a whole range of different kinds of diseases that affect different organs in different ways. And since we weren't sure where Jane's had started, we never were able to find someone who had the same exact experience.
REDWOOD: What was your initial emotional response when you heard Jane's diagnosis?
SMITH: Disbelief. I was at home when we got a telephone call from the doctor. Jane answered the phone and then she called me to the phone. I heard him tell her that the lab report on the fluid in her lungs showed malignant cells. I said, "What does that mean?" He sounded as stunned as we were, and he said, "I guess there's some cancer in there." But Jane never smoked in her life, and it just seemed so off-the-wall. I couldn't take it seriously. But that was just my denial.
REDWOOD: How long did that denial last?
SMITH: In a way I continued to deny the seriousness of it all. Even two weeks later, when they had conducted all their tests on Jane and gave us the report that she had only months to live, I still refused to believe it. I thought I just needed to get Jane out of the hospital and start giving her good nutrition and everything would turn out well. It was one of those things where you care so much for a person that you can't believe it’s a hopeless case.
REDWOOD: What was her response to the diagnosis?
SMITH: When she first got the diagnosis, she took it very literally. She started writing out instructions for her memorial service.
REDWOOD: Right away?
SMITH: Right away. It was almost as if she knew what was going to happen. And I just thought she was overdramatizing the thing. I couldn't even talk to her about that. It just seemed so impossible that that could be the case. Even after everybody else had accepted her fate, I guess I was the last one. Jane had reached the point, maybe several weeks before she died, where she was saying that she felt so bad. She was so debilitated by then that she was saying, "Why can't I die? Why can't I die?" Several people thought it was because I was holding onto her, that I didn't want to let go.
REDWOOD: Did you or she feel that was true?
SMITH: Yes, she did too. And she asked me to let go.
REDWOOD: How does one let go?
SMITH: Well, I didn't know how in the world to do that. And my daughter, bless her heart, suggested that I write a last love letter to Jane. I wasn't even sure I could do that, but I did it, and I read it to Jane. She was in bed at home, when I read the letter to her. I wasn't even sure she was hearing it, because she was not giving any recognition to my presence. But I read it, knowing that sometimes even people who are unconscious can receive communiques of this sort. But she heard it, because there was a long pause after I read it. I just sat there and looked at her. Finally, she said, "That's so beautiful."
REDWOOD: You are a former hard-nosed political reporter who has edited a spiritual magazine for the past 15 years. How did you and Jane experience her illness from a spiritual perspective?