Sunday, May 02, 2010

My Friend's Final Months

My former girlfriend recently learned that she has terminal liver cancer. First she was told that she probably had six months to live. But after more tests were run, her oncologist told her yesterday that it's closer to two months. She's 54 years young.

She said to me, "Why me? I'm a good person. I don't deserve this."

Of course she doesn't. Nobody "deserves" to die such a miserable death. Yes, someone could argue that she did things over the course of her life that likely helped bring this on. Yet, this doesn't mean she "deserves" to die so relatively young of such an awful disease.

But who cares, besides the handful of us who do? Does nature care? Does "God," by whatever name or formless form, care? I don't see how.

I don't know what to say to her at a time like this. Any comforting words that I contemplate offering her over the phone seem too shallowly if not insultingly platitudinous to utter. So, I mostly just listen with as much empathy and compassion as I can muster.

But how can one who's not in her position REALLY empathize with her? I know intellectually that I'm going to die someday, but I haven't had a doctor look me squarely in the eye and tell me I've got only two more months to live. Only if that were to happen, as perhaps it will someday, will I TRULY know what she's going through today. And by then it's likely to be of no benefit to her.

And without much empathy, there's not as much compassion as I'd like to feel and express. Because if the truth be told--and what else is this blog for if not to "nakedly" reveal the unvarnished truth within and without?--I almost envy her. For I've asked myself how I would feel if I were in her place, and the first word that came to mind was "relieved." After all, she's been living on borrowed time for eight or so years tethered to an oxygen machine and unable to do much of anything but lie in bed watching TV and sleeping. That must be awfully old by now. Soon, she'll be released from her gasping debility and suffering into pure nothingness.

But as soon as I post this, I'll call her and be as present for her as I can. And if her dying wish is granted and she's able to escape the loveless place that now imprisons her and come back to California to live out her last days with a longtime friend, I'll go see her and sit with her, and maybe, as I look into her eyes, hold her hand, and see and feel the life ebb from her body, something more will stir in me and radiate from me than I can feel or express now.

Maybe, when I witness, "up close and personal," the inescapable and implacable tragedy of her dying, I'll glow with more life and be able to meet my own eventual death or help others to meet theirs with fewer regrets than my friend undoubtedly feels over decades of wasted opportunities.

No comments: