Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Lets Talk About Death

No-one wants to talk to me about the possibility that the transplant could kill me.

If I mention it in conversation everyone deflects: you’ll be OK, don’t worry about that, you’re strong, you’re a fighter, but the truth is I could die this year due to the transplant. I know that the idea is confronting, and that people generally don’t deal with death very well in our culture, but the reality is whether I live or die has nothing to do with my character. It would simply be bad luck. A bit like getting leukaemia is bad luck.

And I have to think about it.

I find it interesting that I’m not panicking. I don’t suddenly want to write a novel, or fly off to Paris or write letters to my children. And I wonder why. The one person, a friend, who did have a conversation with me about it, said it is because I’ve lived an authentic life. I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do, and don’t regret the way I’ve lived. That’s true. I do have a few regrets, but they are small. I regret not helping other people more in certain situations. I regret spending a few years hanging around with people who weren’t really good friends to me - it was a stage when we were young and the truth is that they none of us were taking care of ourselves, let alone each other, so I can’t take that personally. I haven’t spent my life in a job that I’ve hated. I’ve done pretty much whatever I’ve wanted. I’ve studied literature, acting, singing. I’ve done dancing, art, writing, songwriting. I’ve left jobs when I’ve felt stuck. I’ve spoken out publicly about issues that I care about.

If I die, I believe I’ll just cease to exist, and I’ll have nothing to worry about. I’m not scared about it. But it would be sad for my family.

As for the children, I just trust that I’ve done a good job with them so far (they regularly do things that make me proud of them), and, if I die, they’ll remember me, and they’ll trust the network of family and friends we have around us, and they’ll be fine. Although I would like more time with them, I’ve spent almost every night of their lives talking to them around the dinner table, and I think they know me well, they know  my views, and what I want for them. I’ll just have to stand on my past actions as an example of how I want them to live.

We’re all going to die. We all will be remembered according to how we lived. That‘s just the way it is. 

Thinking about death isn’t so scary afterall.

1 comment:

Liz said...

Though my situation is somewhat different, I have found people very unwilling to talk about (or even acknowledge) the fact that there's a decent chance that cancer will still end up killing me - despite the fact that this is the truth that somehow I have to find a way to live with. It can be a lonely feeling when any hint at this is brushed aside with a look of superstitious horror. I've been surprised that even DOCTOR friends of mine have literally said "DON'T SAY THAT!" when I've mentioned this possibility. Being told how "strong" or "positive" I am as if this will actually make some kind of difference can actually make me feel quite upset , as it seems like an insult to all the people who DON'T make it. There have been a couple of times I've found myself saying things like "I'm no stronger than Jane McGrath"! Just the other day Russell's aunt visited Darwin and greeted me by saying, "So, you're all well! It's all behind you!". This kind of thing happens all the time and I just don't know what to say. Sometimes I explain that it may or may NOT actually be "all over" (and that there's simply no way to tell at the moment), but a lot of the time I feel bad to be seen as a "downer" and so just give a tight smile, say "yup!"...and then feel bad for not being honest!! This is one area in which I've found it very refreshing to hang out with other women who've had breast cancer - I've made a few really lovely friends through BC support and we can all be very open and blunt (and often blackly humorous) about this stuff.

I love your friend's comment and found your reflections in response to it really thought-provoking. I found initially that I judged myself very harshly when faced with the real possibility of early death - all I could see were my perceived failings in just about every realm of my life (very upsetting to my husband, who bore the brunt of these ridiculously self-critical and perfectionistic reflections). I have since tried to take an 'It's a Wonderful Life' type of view, focusing on moments in both my personal and working lives where I know that I "did good". How wonderful that your life has been so passionately lived and so free of regret. I hoe that you are able to continue in this way for many, many more years.

Very, very best wishes - I think of you often...Liz xo