While at my desk earlier this week a thought of a friend entered my consciousness. He is a friend who is dying from Stage 4 Lung Cancer and Brain Cancer. I created a reminder and task to connect with him next Friday. At this moment it seems so insensitive because it’s set up as a to do and because it’s next to a reminder to check on my husband’s business card order. While writing this blog post it reminds me that these two totally unrelated tasks come with the paradox – one with emotion and one emotionless that I could do while half asleep. Contradiction is part of the complex life you and I live every day without really thinking about it.
Driving home I saw my neighbor in her garden and ran back up the street to connect. She also has Stage 4 cancer except hers is ovarian. We had an amazing conversation and connection. I now wonder if this seemingly unrelated conversation and connection happened so that I could be prepared for what happened next.
Last night at about 10:40 pm I did something unusual for me; I checked my email before bed. My heart stopped a beat as I read the subject line: Abdi. I immediately felt an incredible wave of sadness; pretty much it was like a tsunami knocking me on the ground. I knew without a doubt I was too late, I had missed the moment of opportunity to give and receive unconditional connection.
I cried as I read the words:
I just returned with Alix from visiting Abdi in University Hospital. Our friend is now in the last few hours of his life. Just a couple of weeks ago he was still doing pretty well and was even able to drive.
My husband looked at me and knew part of what I was feeling and told me to call Andy whom had sent the message. I told him that I wouldn’t and couldn’t as a call would selfishly only be for myself at that moment so that I could receive the blessing of connection.
I went to our room and allowed the feelings of sadness, of loss, and of regret for not having taking advantage my conscious hit to connect earlier this week.
The feelings of the circumstances surrounding this new information of Abdi’s unexpected decline at this moment and those of my father’s own decline and death burst the damn of emotion and left me unable to do anything in that moment of swirling feelings. Damn it.
You see my father also had terminal cancer and was “suppose” to have a time of dying in which we would have the opportunity to be with him, but instead he unexpectedly died due to a stroke or aneurism (they don’t autopsy terminal patients). His body was found next to his car with the back seat door open and his gardening gloves on which meant he was doing what he loved, just as Abdi’s been living so fully and deeply.
Throughout dear Abdi’s cancer journey my own life’s bandwidth was full of caring for my mother’s unexpected nine month medical journey. I logically choose to put my energy there. I sporadically checked on Abdi’s Caring Journey Blog. I felt love from what I read and emotionally conflicted knowing it was important to stay focused on my mom and our immediate family which took all the energy I had.
Now that a couple weeks had passed since my mother had left and returned back east, I was able to breathe and de-clutter my mind allowing for newness to emerge. Abdi ‘s kind loving soul entered my mind and I created a date to connect which I spoke to earlier in this post. My regret is that I will never have an opportunity to make and experience that call with him. For my best mental being I know I must forgive myself for those immediate thoughts of not “being enough” during the past months of his cancer journey and for not making that call earlier.
Instead, I will allow my thoughts to linger over the lovely conversations we had over coffee at a local shop pre-cancer. I will choose to remember and fill myself with the memories of serving together on the board for Voices Education Project. In fact I met him just after finishing my own breast cancer journey which was a fragile time for me. He always had a big smile and kind words which is what attracted me to him in the first place.
I will remember his generous being, hardy laugh, and amazing world view. Of course I will cherish the numerous big hugs that constantly rippled out in the world touching myself and many others. I will remember how we both left delighted, full of new possibility, filled with friendship.
One of the hardest parts of being the person who lives is the sadness and loss due to the finite knowing that these experiences with Abdi can never be had again. I will do my best to hold the amazing and loving thoughts of shared experience and bring them forward with newness rather than linger on what is now missing.
People and experiences are never replaced, only new ones are created. It’s our choice to linger in the past and to wish we could feel it again just as it was at that moment, but this is never possible and will leave you with more longing. This I have learned through the experience of dying and death in my life.
It’s also our choice to be in the present and filled with satisfaction and love that happen in the moments we create through our conscious and thoughtful actions. To me this is a life worth living. This is the advice I give to myself and will allow me to take actions that come from my core values and fill me with deep satisfaction instead of wishing for what cannot be.
I want to share a few words from Abdi’s last post on Caring Bridge – which I believe he would be happy to share. My hope is that you may have a brief experience of his expansive and loving self. Even though you didn’t get to experience his hugs, smile and laugh in person, you may bring alive experience these feelings for yourself and perhaps shift your own thinking or actions so that your life may be one that is better lived.
BELIEVING IN MY NEW WINGS
I moved a few weeks ago to a sweet apartment on Lake Washington on the edge of the water. When I look out the window I see Lake Washington and Mt Rainier. For a sailor it is the perfect sight. Each morning I greet the movement of the water at my window and its beauty nurtures me and makes me feel like I am a part of everything. Next I will be awaiting the rising of the full moon with candles lit in the windows.
This was my third move this year and so you may ask why?
Back in November when Jeff and Robin offered me the cottage in their garden I was feeling very vulnerable and both my lungs and brain seemed out of control and the oncologists were concerned that I may have only a few months of my time left on this beautiful planet.
Jeff and Robin were kind and took some risk in asking me to move in with them in my condition. A little over a month ago when my overall condition improved and the cancer seemed contained I felt that I needed to move forward. When I moved in with Jeff and Robin I did not think I would get my suitcase out of storage and travel again.
“But at this stage, I want to start creating a new life based not on fear, but on hope”. No one can predict what the future holds for someone in my condition. “I want to believe I can try to fly again. I want to believe my wings are strong enough to allow me some travel and some risk.”
I continue to be grateful to all of you who have supported me in so many ways and have applauded me on this sometimes arduous marathon.
I continue to be touched everyday when I remember and realize more deeply on how close I came to dying in order to go so deeply and to learn about love every day. Beauty and love have sustained me. A few months ago when I was very ill my Oncologist asked me about my quality of life and where I would draw the line in terms of how I would measure life and how far I am willing to go.
The night before that visit I had parted the curtain to see the full moon. Remembering the sky and the full moon, I told him that as long as I can watch the moon through the window and enjoy listening to the poetry of Rumi or the music of Mozart I think life would be worth living.
So I end this long posting with a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye.
This poem has crossed my mind many, many times in the past 11 months. It has been with me even in the most difficult periods of my illness. It just appears and sits there with me and keeps me company!
This is the poem that reminds me to have the courage to fly again, to give it all I have.
I have already crossed some challenging mountains. What have I got to lose?
Inspirational Poem: So Much Happiness
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.
May these words, touch, move and inspire you as they have me.
As Abdi say’s above in this inspiring quote:
“I want to start creating a new life based not on fear, but on hope”.
What one action are you willing to take today that creates more hope in your life?
I’d love to hear your comments.
Thank you for reading, Peace – Michele.