Today on Caroline’s blog is posted a photo of her on a summit somewhere (yes, at the Top), looking pensive in the mist, black umbrella in hand. Very apropos, this photograph, on so many levels. The announcement card for her memorial service features the photo and a short verse about having a full life, great love, and intense years that were hand in hand with death. I can’t find a great translation (from Dutch) – the final line might be about not forgetting her now that she has passed.
At the bottom, a line about how much she liked cheerful flowers.
I wish I could attend her service. Another sister lost – a friend whose thoughts, desires, and worries I could relate to; a person I met through this terrible disease but who I hoped would live to see the future. I hoped we would meet someday, laugh, eat cake, walk in the hills, fantasize what we might do if a cure were found or if we could live 5 more years. I wanted to see her artwork.
My sorrow and bitterness wells up, mixed with inexorable hopelessness and the growing distance between Hubs and I. This is a common problem, something I’ve been weary of for years. I don’t know how to combat it. Being ill is very difficult, and trying to understand it from a healthy person’s perspective is just as difficult. Trying to understand how fighting for one’s life is an all-consuming job is even more difficult, as most people simply try to preserve that intangible thing called “Quality of Life”. I’m sorry but the quality of my life with lung cancer is such that I would rather spend my time looking for ways to stay alive and get my energy back than sit still and be reminded of the borrowed time I’m on. I do understand, however, that spouses get nothing from whatever method the ill person takes, and must find fulfillment that has ceased to come from the burdened relationship, elsewhere.
In August, Caroline talked about the fear of daring to live. She was afraid to hope, afraid she would be slapped down by the disease that was at that moment infiltrating her spinal fluid. She was right, and no one I know would have the strength to take that news with a smile. She coiled into herself as most of us would, too tired and depressed to feel anything but a growing dread, loneliness, and hopelessness at losing the ability to desire or dream. Most people, upon reaching that point, would exclaim, “Kill me now!” or “Stick a fork in me. I’m done.” It takes weeks of ruminating on this, with nary a glimmer of hope that things were not as bad as one thought. Typically, and I’ve seen multiple examples of this just in the past 3 days – it’s far worse than one even dares to imagine. Really, it is. (My oncologist kept the CT report from me this last scan, preferring to frame it in his own words.)
I feel much better today than last week, but like Caroline, I don’t dare hope. The conflict within is exhausting. I think this is where people throw their hands up and give themselves over to God, or Buddha. This is where one wonders if they’ve self-actualized enough to keep from returning to earth. Or perhaps, this is where one hopes that ghost stories are true.
It’s easy for me to lapse into complacency when I feel good. I lose all concentration and don’t focus on what’s most important at the end of life. So the fact that I’m trying to concentrate on putting things in order is huge. And for this, I get the stink eye from Hubs. In the end, it’s all just stuff…stuff that will eventually find its way to the landfill. What will happen to this blog, my journals, my pictures? The Hubs will move on, re-marry, have kids, be home enough to want to take them to do things. Etc. One passes and time goes on, and after awhile the sands of memory are scattered over earth and time, overtaken by all that is new and fresh…
Maybe that’s where Peace comes from. It comes from knowing that once we go, everything that’s caused pain and pleasure, happiness and despair – all of it vaporizes and there’s just nothingness (or heaven, or dirt, or reincarnation – I don’t know).
But for now, I think of Caroline, and Naomi, and all the earthly things we loved to do, and would have loved to do, during our short lives.