Irene. Krista. Judy. Kevin. Joanne. These are people I loved who died of cancer.
They had so much still to live, to give. And they died with too much pain.
The reason I'm writing about this today is this weekend I attended a memorial for Jo--a funny, vibrant, compassionate woman who loved her family and her animals fiercely. She did not want to give in to cancer. She fought hard.
One of her sons swallowed his grief to talk about her loving heart. Another son made a touching slide show of her life. As we watched, we saw the joy and love that had filled so many years. We laughed at the German Shepherd trying to curl into her lap. We cried at her last visits to the stables.
As painful as memorial services are they give us the chance to reflect on the lives of those we love, to remember how they touched us or made us better. That is an honor, not a burden.
When my friend Kevin was struggling to stay alive, I was shocked to be diagnosed with the same cancer he had. Normally, I wouldn't share much about this on a blog about writers and stories, but what is dying but the final bookend of life and what is writing except about life?
I still remember his reaction when I told him I had been struck with the same cancer. He let loose an expletive of the strongest kind, and I actually liked that a friend would loudly voice that anger and not give me pity or platitudes. I am one of the lucky ones, having survived several surgeries and treatment. I'm still here after a dozen years. *knocks on wood*
Kevin was an artist, curator, writer, musician--a true creative soul. But he told me he had come to accept that his life might end long before he'd anticipated. I wrote this simple poem as I struggled in the early days of my own diagnosis. It's just a reminder to me to live each day as if it were the last, to be clear in my goals, compassionate in my interactions to the best of my ability.
"I’ve accepted an
of my life,"
gritty turn of phrase.
Wish I’d imagined it,
not inherited it.
But it’s time
clarify the essence.
And be prepared
for an abbreviated
of my life
This morning I wandered the sea shore, thinking of Jo and her family. Some words came to me in haiku form, so I'll share them.
sluggish clouds lift from
the green back of coastal hills.
sun melts the tightness
swarm of pelicans,
trailed by two stragglers, skims the
ruffled edge of waves.
wailing, scolding gulls
circle, land; unquestioning
their role or place
a surfer glistens
ocean-wet, grinning, teeth white
as the crashing waves.
clear, salt breeze fills my
lungs, makes me part of the sea
and completely me
Godspeed, Jo. And love always Irene, Krista, Kevin, Judy. And, belatedly, I add my dear Aunt Doris, who I just found out died of cancer, as well.