It is a very strange situation to be in, really. Over a week ago, I was given ‘days to weeks’ to live, with no one knowing upon which side of that particular marker the Reaper would come calling. It isn’t as if we have it scheduled in our diaries… or, if he has, he hasn’t let me know. On the one hand, this is good. I am not sitting here like Pratchett’s Windle Poons, watching the clock and waiting for a no-show. On the other hand, I am both vaguely surprised and inordinately grateful every morning when I open my eyes on a new day,
It means that having much still to do and probably too little time left, I am working like a steam strain… albeit one whose pressure is running sadly low… to complete the tasks I think that really need to, or would like to complete before it is too late. To do so, I am working harder than perhaps I should… but even if I live more ‘days to weeks’ than expected, as the cancer is behind my eyes now and has already taken one of them, there is no guarantee I will be able to see to work for much longer.
So, I’m getting on with things. And all the while I know that, in the greater scheme, what matters to me personally right now may well not matter to anyone else at all. But that’s okay. You do what you feel is right.
One of the things I am getting on with is sorting the books. The earliest ones were written with Stuart in the throes of our excitement at having a genuine, esoteric adventure laid at our feet. Because we wanted to share the excitement, the books went out in colour, making them so uncomfortably expensive it felt like daylight robbery to sell them at that price at all… even while we had no space for royalties built-in. So that is being rectified. Sorting things in the home… the business end of the dying process… that is all underway. I still need to live and pay the bills. I need to sell the car… and while I have reached a point where I could now eat anything I want and say to hell with the calories… I can no longer eat much at all and yet the shopping still has to be done. And every morning, a batch of texts and emails go out to simply say, ‘I’m still here…’
It is a very strange place in which to find yourself. But, like most strange things, it has two sides…
One of the real beauties of still being here is getting to glimpse my own eulogy, so to speak. From the thousands of messages that have made their way to my desktop… from the Carrot Ranch’s Rodeo, to the comments and emails through the blog as well as the personal friends and family… It has astonished me to see and feel the love out there. The sheer volume of communication is something I would never in a million years have expected and for which I am grateful beyond words. It is undoubtedly a healing experience for a heart that has been through the mill more than once in its time. And, as I have said before, it offers its healing to more than me alone, as my sons and those I love see that I touched lives beyond my own too.
For every beauty, though, there is another side… and it is not always obvious which is which. Every friend who reaches out to say goodbye at this moment is reaching out to one person… one farewell. Those of us who know we are about to leave are reaching out too… but for us, the goodbyes are magnified, numbered in their hundreds… and each one carries both its own joy and grief… the griefs of parting are inevitable, but the joys of having shared time together, in the realms of imagination, virtual reality or the wonderful human world of the heart, they are worth any number of tears.
Love wears many faces, from the life-sharing depths of parenthood and partnership to the life-affirming gifts of kindness and friendship… there are so many ways to express and share it that we could never exhaust its abundance.
How do you judge which side of the coin is ‘better’? To have not loved and laughed together, not felt the joy that must always hold a kernel of potential grief at its heart? Or to pass quietly and serenely without the searing heartaches of love to accompany each farewell?
If each tear is an echo of joy, each touch recalls tenderness, and each sigh remembers laughter. I know which I would choose.