In 2006 I posted a blog about facing my reality. Excerpt: "I know that his life has made others reflect and desire change within their own life. Is this why the young and the good die before what appears to be their time, so we who remain are forced to examine ourselves? I wonder. Rarely do I consider my trajectory when a 90-yr old with Alzheimer's passes away."
Today I face losing a dear friend, a neighbor, a woman who has treated me like a daughter for the last 11 years. We discovered that she has cancer about 5 weeks ago. I've spent the last few weeks helping with doctor visits and Internet research. Yesterday, the doctors told us that the cancer is very aggressive and that there is no treatment that can help her. Hospice begins on Monday. She has been given anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to live as her liver shuts down. She has turned yellow in just a matter of days, and looks like a shadow of the woman who has loved me like the daughter she never had. Truth is, she really treats everyone like her son or daughter. She's not an artist, except in how she loves other people.
I need this to slow down. I feel like I can't do this--can't face her loss so soon after losing Bill. But, if she were suffering through chemo, I would want it to speed up. We just don't get to choose. And compared to what she is facing, I've got it easy. I can't imagine being told my life is measured in days, and then have to watch my family grieve.
I think about her life, a long life, a painful life, sometimes a good life, a life she spent taking care of everyone else. Now we take care of her, and once again I am forced to examine the trajectory of my life. I wonder about the balance between self-sacrifice, which she has done so artfully, and taking care of one's own needs, something she never learned. It is her self-sacrifice that bleeds our love for her to the surface, overflowing. She can't possibly drink it all in. As I stand back and watch her family around her, I appreciate the beauty of love. I can almost touch it. Maybe it's the fear that makes it so touchable. The fear of the loss.
As her mean husband continues to be self-absorbed in his own problems, I feel so angry that she stayed with him. I feel sad that she spent her whole life taking care of everyone else without doing anything for herself. What a waste that she didn't live the life she wanted, that she didn't follow her dreams. Or did she? I hope to ask her in the next few days.
Jeanne McDeid, 70 years old--she is a beautiful, beautiful human being. She is my friend, and I don't know how to lose her without losing a huge part of myself.