A good friend told me recently that she has cancer. She and I aren't best friends, but we are constant ones, and she is one of those people I am grateful to have influence me. Her cancer figured prominently in my dreams last night (when the girls from Make It or Break It weren't trying to steal my birth control pills).
When I woke this morning, still half-caught in dreams about sickness and funerals, I curled up in bed and thought about death. I thought about my dad's passing, and my father-in-law's, and how their illnesses were so different and yet their last moments were nearly identical: they left this earth with someone they loved holding their hands. I thought about my friend Jenie's daughter, who was killed in a car accident when she was 11, and how Jenie has managed to not be broken by her loss. About Avera's death. I even thought about the deaths of my grandparents, which all happened so long ago, but I still miss them and grieve the loss of experiences my kids might have had with them.
How strange is it? We arrive and then we live our lives with all their individualities. Loving what we love, pursuing what we hope, making what we need. My dad and his interest in art and Native Americans and books; my grandpa and his roses, my grandma and her kindness. All of what made their lives theirs now belongs to someone else. My friend with cancer is still here, telling it without any doubt, being straightforward in her knowing way, sharing her knowledge, being unafraid. And one day, even without the cancer, she won't be. One day I won't be, either.
So I thought about me. How I hope to die: sometime in my 80's, peacefully, without a lot of fuss or illness, and, wildly improbable I know, outside under trees. What I hope to leave behind: indelible memories with people I love. How I hope to live: passionately, with kindness and gentleness and with enough integrity to be true to who I really am.
In that time of thinking, I wanted a Revelation. Some sort of truth that would let me know something, anything: that my friend would be OK, that those I've lost know I am thinking about them, that my own death is still many decades away. I didn't get that. Only the remembrance that, of course, death is a carriage coming for all of us, and all that I can really hope for is that when it stops for me, I will be ready, somehow, and that someone I love will be holding my hand.