A is dying. She has pancreatic cancer. When they found the cancer in September it had already infected two or three of her organs including her liver. She will not be as fortunate as Steve Jobs to survive so long after the diagnosis. This is the second person I know personally to have pancreatic cancer. The first, and I will share her name because she is dead, Janice, learned of her cancer in 2010 and died last year.
When I found out, this morning, I shed some tears. I barely know A. You could wrap up our relationship developed over the last year and a half into less than a 30 minute conversation. Yet I remember some of the comments she has made were simply incredible. As I looked around the room watching the others of our group that were no doubt aware of her situation, I was distraught. She will probably die in 2013. Her and her husband made the decision not to fight the cancer. She is not young, probably in her 80s or at least 70s.
Death reinforces how severely limited our earthly lives are. She will not make great comments for the next decade. She will not be there to smile and say, "Good morning Isaiah". She will not be there to exude the intellectual, sophisticated and extremely educated aura that she backs up so well with her words and actions. This is hard because she is not a silent bystander but a vocal contributor.
There is a lot of comfort to be had in this situation, just as there was with Janice. A's faith in God seems exemplary to me. Our shared beliefs provide me the comfort I need to know that whatever happens is for the best. Yet that only slightly diminishes the fear of loss.
Everyone dies. It can be postponed but not prevented. In a way she is very fortunate to have an idea of how her final days on earth will progress. From the perspective of a naive 26 year old, cancer might not be a terrible way to go. It provides a chance to wrap up the loose ends. A way to say, "what an adventure," without the trauma of bleeding to death on the side of the road. A chance to say, "it's your turn now, kid."
The last time I saw my grandma was about 18 hours before she died. It is the best reason that has ever caused me to miss work. In part, we cry for ourselves. That we are left here with the pain and suffering and one less person to help us navigate the treacherous waters.
To quote the best movie ever, Red (narrating and played by Morgan Freeman) says, "Sometimes it makes me sad, though... Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they're gone. I guess I just miss my friend."