Sunday, August 23, 2009


I told L. the other day that I wasn't scared of dying.

It must have sounded like total B.S.

I have cried to her about dying, after all. I have clutched her about dying. She has watched mortality get into me mercilessly at 3 a.m. She has listened as I have tried to isolate the worst parts -- is it the absence, missing the end of the story I so lovingly and hopefully commissioned? Is it the process, the pain that seems to increase until you're trading lucidity for every last bit of control and wakefulness that you fought so long for? And yeah: Before that point, I will certainly fear whatever nasty medical procedures I opt for in the name of comfort or buying time.

But categorically "scared of dying?" I don't know. Our porch steps, when sufficiently icy, may be more threatening than epithelioid sarcoma. Some horrors do not move me. I know is that I'm not going to hell for my petty crimes and misdemeanors (I'm not making fun of this idea in the slightest; I'm just not scared of how I've lived my life.) It agonizes me to think of not being with my family any more, but I know they will be OK without me. Even the scary pain -- at that point, lucidity is overrated. You get the shots.

But then there's the pain of my loved ones: my wife, the little precious ones. Yes, they'll be all right. They may well do better. But there's no morphine for them. It haunts me.

And there's the Zadie Smith problem -- the story you'd like to tell most, the big finale, is the one that, by definition, you cannot share, probably cannot even experience. Sometimes I feel like I don't exist if I can't tell L. something. It haunts me. (So I imagine haunting her.)
It haunts me--

I feel crushed beneath the awful weight of wasted time.

With this hospitalization, I feel a sudden burst of energy and purpose, much like the one that burst upon me when I first found out I had a life-threatening illness, but redoubled now because I feel a new urgency about the work I can do for my kids. I'll never finish those efforts -- so I'm not scared there -- but I'm a world-class time fritterer, and there's so much I want to say and do. My parents will be spending a lot of time here over the next several months. I want to spend real time with them; record our voices talking together both for the experience of it and, later, for B. and T. Can I manage.... wisely? Can I fill the right photo album and write the right letter and let go of what's superfluous and, in the midst of it all, leave time for a life for myself?

The challenges go on and on...

L. and I have a lot to talk about.

For complicated, lovely reasons, I never did finish the last Harry Potter, but I remain determined to do so.

My friends are crucial.

I want to invest more in this blog -- and in a new writing project I have hardly begun.

Selfishly, ridiculously, I'd really like one last time at Lucques or Chez Panisse. Or even Frontera.

Last (for now), but not least: This year, damn it, I am going to plant some bulbs.
I'm haunted, yes. But it's not all bad.


Anonymous said...

do it. just do it. let your lungs expand and plant those bulbs, tape your voice for l and the kids, hang with friends, have your mom hold you (it always helps) and keep up your amazing will to live!

thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

Hi ,

Please read near death experiences from websites like near-death dot com and NDERF. Also there is a book titled nothing better than death. Those will inspire you. To tell you the truth, death is much better than human birth. As for life, life is eternal. Death is not the opposite of life, death is only opposite of birth. Good luck and god bless!


Kathy said...

Ditto the above post. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I found and found it hugely comforting. Much of my healing has been focused on the healing of my spirit. Much of the power of cancer lies in fear of death and of our own mortality. As you have never really discussed your own feelings regarding a higher power, I am not sure where you stand on this issue.

pat said...

may the force be with you still

SG said...

Thanks, everybody. I appreciate the encouragement, goodness knows! And I'm almost out of the hospital, which will make the writing harder, but just about everything else important to me a whole lot easier...