I have died. I no longer walk the earth like you. In a body, that is a blessing when it works, and, when it stops working, I assure you the dropping of it is an equal blessing.
That’s all I can tell you about where I’m not. As I write this, I know what everyone knows, but most don’t believe for themselves: mortality is real for us all.
So many people who die, specifically of cancer it seems, write viral letters about embracing life. Eat an avocado every day. Tell your mean neighbor his lawn looks nice. Don’t hesitate, quit your job, go to Bora Bora. And then they go on to tell you about the last few months of their lives under palm trees, with a once scabies-infected dog. Often accompanied by an impossibly healthy looking person and partner.
I don’t have those kinds of life lessons to share. I know what I did at the end of my life. I know what brought me joy. But my list would surely not affect you.
When I first announced I had metastatic breast cancer, after being private about my illness for almost 7 years, I got a mass of support. People flying in to see me, lunch dates lined up until 2020. The sense of connection was overwhelming, in a nice way.
There were those people that did come through but 98% of my frantic callers dropped away. I reached out to a few people to see if they wanted to get together and got that “we’ll figure it out” hand gesture. Although we never did.
The point of this is not to call anyone out or be hurt, because my last days were great. I was with the people who were meant to be there. I understand the urgency of wanting to go out of your way to see a dying friend and then somehow it’s not so urgent. Or the mortality piece doesn’t seem real or even like a space you want to stand in.
I never wanted to deal with this disease and blame no one for even remotely not wanting to be around it. Even unconsciously.
Through the drop ins and outs, I realized that people are going to do whatever they’re going to do regardless of what they want to want. Even me.
Wasn’t that freeing? I didn’t have to buy tickets to Bora Bora, I could spend days in bed, even though I wanted to want to be productive. Even though it was the first time since a chemo treatment I had energy.
As I die, I still put pressure on myself. I get angry when I can’t sit up to type. There are projects I am hoping to finish before I go. But I have no control over any of that. The only thing I can work on is being without the guilt of not doing. Accepting that my days are what they were.
As a side note, if you are angry at me for not reaching out, totally understandable. My death process had to be a small and contained one. I likened it to a death dinghy. As I floated farther from the shore, I knew one more body would throw off the beautiful balance and safety I worked hard to create.
That’s not to say that the love and connections we shared weren’t real. They all were. But if you need to get pissed at me, go for it. I think I might if I read this note from a good friend who was suddenly not there.
All my love – m