Friday, November 26, 2010
What do you say to someone who has just been given one week left to live? Do you say "see you later" (too casual) "Good luck" (too ridiculous) "See you soon" (your hoping NOT to).
Two weeks ago, I went to see my big cousin David. We called him "Big David" b/c he's not only 12 years older than me - but when he was a kid he was BIG and ultimately grew into a BIG man. But, despite his size, he was a gentle giant. He passed away last week to liver (and several other organs) cancer. The irony was that he smoked like a sailor for decades and just days before his death - his own doctor said his lungs sounded fine. No cancer there.
I went to see him (the same day his doctor finally told him to "go home and get comfortable") with several of my other cousins. Although he was sitting up, eating pizza and laughing - he had the look of death in his eyes. You know the way someone looks when they have cancer and are dying. Once you have seen this - you can recognize it time and time again. The cancer slowly depletes all life force, the skin tone, the drive and in time - the will from a persons eyes. It's a robber of the worst kind.
I don't believe in the white gate, a bearded man greeting you with a staff, the angels singing, the grand reunion of everyone we have ever lost skipping together into everlasting life. I think these myths have been past down and twisted into book and story form, generation after generation as a way to give hope to those of us still living. I believe in reincarnation. When we die, I think our spirit frees itself from it's shell, be it old, sick, or damaged and finds a new place to call home. Maybe a California redwood, or maybe a new baby coming into the world once again. None of us have died and actually come back to tell about heaven of the afterlife but anyway.
I sat in front of David and we talked. We talked about old memories I had of him when we were younger. The time he caught me lighting up a cigarette coming out of the movies at 13 but never told my parents, the camping trips, the holiday parties, growing up on Angle Pond. We laughed, and cried a little. I stayed for about and hour then hugged him one last time and said "I love you very much and I'm proud of you". He knew what I meant. He died one week later, exactly as his doctor predicted.
My father says "death is just another phase of life" and although while you are losing someone - these words seems unbearable, unacceptable and too simple for the great emotion one feels at that very moment and often many weeks or months following, it's true. We are born, we live and then we die. If it were only that easy. Just words and actions with nothing attached. I'm 37 and have lost way too many people to this disease. I'm heartsick from saying So Long even though it's just a part of life.