In memory of Dawn
On New Year’s eve day I called a friend I had not seen in a few months, and learned she was in hospital, dealing with 4th stage cancer. Fourth stage means that the cancer has moved elsewhere, beyond it’s origin. Her liver was the largest problem; it was not doing a good job purifying the blood of toxins. The day I arrived she had enough energy to occasionally sit-up on her own , smile, and hug. But the disease had progressed fast. At 46 she looked 80, her skin was jaundiced and drooping.
New Year’s eve dinner was a salad in the hospital, sitting near her, and it was one of the greatest gifts of the year. She sat-up with anticipation when her dinner arrived, but somehow she could not eat very much. Drinking was a challenge; she’d often drop the cup. We had a few short jokes, a line or two. None of this was planned, and seeing her I wanted to stay until the next day, but I could not find a way. I had to return to a dog I was sitting so it could eat and do its business outside.
This triggered a deja-vu. A memory surfaced of Dad’s passing and of how old mind presented itself, “My Dad just died, how can the world keep going?!” It was a reminder, that although we apparently are born and die, it’s just more of the same, it is life going on, and we take care, we do whatever we need to do to take care of the moment, however it presents itself.
(I remember a similar suffering when watching a horrific execution online, which I stumbled upon. It so disturbed me–or, I so disturbed me–that in excruciating pain, I wrote a poem about it. ) Suffering says, “the world must stop, because this can’t be.” Yet it is. And the world does not stop. No matter how you wish, no matter how much you suffer “about” it, what is, is. Suffering does not change anything. It never has, it never will. If there is a problem, then suffering itself is it. Life and how it arises, dwells, and decays and renews itself is not a problem.
A few days went by, and I visited every day I could. She would eat, then rest, and wake-up, surprised to still see me there. A few words, not really sentences, here and there. None was needed. Mostly I sat in silence, looking at her, and there was only a deep peace. We visited in stillness. And love. A knowing arose that who she was is not the body. That she is beyond the body, immutable, indestructible–eternal. The more the body faded, the more this ‘brilliance’ shone through to me; a very powerful sense of love and connection flowed through my body, and beyond.
Each day after, the body fell further and further away. And it, and she, was beautiful.
She could no longer sit-up on her own. I appreciated how matter-of-factly she was in each moment and with how much grace she bore her pain and inabilities, her dependence on others. And yet she also remained self-reliant, doing as much as she could herself. I massaged her swollen ankles and legs, and later her back, which was in pain from laying down so long. Eventually she mostly slept. Even as the family made plans to move her into a hospice, there were murmurs in the hospital that she might not last to the next weekend. I know there have been “miracles” at fourth stage cancer, and so I never took to heart anything anyone said…it was just pure moment-to-moment experience for me, and her, with love.
In the short time that I knew her (under a year), her passion for people and her exuberance for life was obvious. She truly lived unlimited. In this day of almost instant communication through various means, it was no surprise that I got the news of her birth, or re-birth, into spirit via Facebook as I was leaving for the hospital.
“Our beautiful friend is at peace now.”
Like another friend’s news of passing which came through email, I stared at it for a timeless moment as the news sunk in. Then I was still, waiting to see if sadness or something would arise. There was a deep …connection, and like before, wonderful love welled-up. She was here.
The responses rolled-in on Facebook; it was an amazing celebration in itself with people posting photos of her, their gratitude and appreciation, love and concern for her family, and the humorous remarks, true to my friend’s style:
“…will always remember her laughing and telling me the story of when she spoke to her doctor and said with much glee–“I’m not afraid of dying darling!” She was one plucky -not a word I use much, but very apt for that lady!”
After remembering through others, and celebrating on Facebook, I went into the kitchen, contemplating this phenomena of life going on, of birth and death being what life does. And right at that moment, very loudly, very clearly came, “Celebrate Life!”
It was her voice.
It meant my life, here and now. And her “death”.
Yes, that is what we did together, and with death being another door of life, that is what we were doing. That is what I did in the kitchen. That is what I continue to do when I think of her, or see her, or feel her, or hear her in my head. “Celebrate Life, darling!” Celebrate your life–and death itself–which is part of life; because without death, there is no life.