I work in the office with a woman named Katherine, who happened to start work the same day as me. She’s beautiful, a mother, wife, dynamic strong individual, has many ideas, understands workplace urgency, but even in the most stressful of situations is very upbeat. I started noticing about a month ago that she had been missing a lot of work; mentioned to me times she wouldn’t be available due to medical appointments (I coordinate a lot of activities with her). Recently I found out she has cancer; a particularly aggressive and quick cancer and I feel stunned. She’s still working, looking a little more tired and not as upbeat, but it’s a real effort on my part not to feel or show sadness when I see her. I did a little on-line research, and it seems there will be a time when she can’t keep the façade up and continue to work. I’m not too close with her, so I can’t strike up a conversation with her, “Hey, how’s the cancer thing going?” but I feel really sad and try my best to put it out of my mind, maybe she’ll be one of the 3% that successfully goes into remission.
I guess the symptoms for this type of cancer aren’t’ really distinct; they could be interpreted as anything mild and easily over looked. I went to lunch today with a friend of mine named Lynn, and I was telling her about Katherine and how I felt about the whole thing. Lynn was explaining how her mother died from the same type of cancer, and she and all of her family were in the hospice during her mother’s final days, and they were all really upset, but trying to keep the strong upper lip for their mother’s sake. Then Lynn went on to explain that she had a kooky ex-boyfriend hippy new age guy there, who, despite all of his pot smoking and general weirdness, had this great philosophy about death, and about how it was a stage of life, and it’s just a transition into another plane of being, weather you’re Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, whatever, you are basically transcending this life onto the next ------- [insert next thing here]. The calm rationalization of this often overlooked hippy made everyone feel at ease, and helped her family through that painful transition.
So, yes, I agree with that statement, and I think part of the pain and sadness of dying is suffering, and the other part is sudden death. Last month my friend Arland died, suddenly, 2 days before his death he sat next to me at a meeting and we were bullshitting about the nice weather and some of the great things we had done over the summer. I was telling him about when I visited Mt. St. Helens, and he was telling me how he lived near there when it erupted, and had so much ash covering his property and car it was like a thick blizzard. Arland was older then I thought he was; I didn’t find out until his eulogy that he was 59, but I swear he was like 49. I usually can’t go to funerals, but went to Arland’s, and I stayed a total of 32 minutes before I had to leave. Arland had a massive heart attack, with no warning; he never complained and seemed relatively healthy, especially compared to the rest of the country. I think I was more upset that so many people around me were upset, rather then being upset that Arland had died. When I arrived at the funeral home where the wake was being held, my first thought was, “I hope this many people show up when I die.” I didn’t go up to the front and look at his body or anything.
I think I’ll just remember him sitting next to me at the meeting, shooting the shit and eating cookies with me.