Gratitude Journal:Death and Dying

The happiest person I know is dying. The friend mentioned in the previous post: she was one of my mother’s three best friends, and she has stage 4 breast cancer.  I learned what that meant earlier in the week. Stage 4 means that you know your death cause, but I didn’t know how long she’d known. Three years. During this time, she had a roommate who did not respect others enough to let them into her life more. But had I realized this earlier, I’m not sure what I would or could do.

When I read how long she had over email today (she could die any day, and there’s no telling how long it will be; sicknesses will get to her, but she will die from organ failure as the cancer runs its course and terminates things.) it took me so much aback that I did not know how to reply. I marked it as “Mark as Unread” and walked back to the El station to take the trip to the bus to get me to dinner and then home. Normally, Friday nights I volunteer at my temple. Without a car for the past while due to an accident, I haven’t been there as much lately. Should have the car back tomorrow.

Rode the escalator to the El platform after a stressful day of editing a movie to finish a class from Spring semester, then read the email enough to absorb what it meant and I started to cry. I put my phone away and kept crying as the El showed up and took me to the bus that was a half hour late, or more so. Pigeons overhead in the rafters, I felt annoyed that they were there, despite the efforts of the city to stick miniature steel spikes in the most likely places. Many people gave up and started walking of their own accord. I finally rode the bus.

This lady is talented, has three kids, one married, one barely graduated from college, and one who is the son of a second marriage and not yet in middle school. Her husband died shortly after the child was born, and she never re-married. She is lucky that she has family, that there is a pretty supportive Church network (ward), and that she has close friends. I’m lucky that I know her at all. She moved to my Church network when I was maybe 12? She saw my family through a heap of life, and she has been essentially surrogate Mom as there are no older women in the family who are like my Mom left. All of the direct-line ancestral biological female relatives are dead. The ones who are alive do not see me as Mom did, save her, and this friend is only related to me back in the 1600’s from a different marriage of some old guy that was either Dutch or in New England. For that ancestor, one wife died and then he married another and their relatives went every which way. I have other female biological or marriage-related relatives, but only see them rarely and then I am in guest roles.

Mom’s friend rarely complains, and she gives me reality checks when everyone around me either acts like I’m great or awful, or can’t give me solid advice to save their lives. My friends are extremely good people, but she never tells me anything for her gain or with personal bias involved. I’m not that good all the time and want to be. She also inspires me to do better. She knows at least six languages, and is always learning. I love that about her.

My birthday is soon, and in my selfish self-pity I thought about the timing. I found out that an extremely good friend was dying after a very long day and then I looked back across the bus stop filled with birds and their droppings and feathers to where people came off the El. Thought about how each of them had their own story, and how God is their Father, too, and wondering how in the world He kept track of us all. I couldn’t do what He does, that’s for sure. (Not without serious, massive help at the minimum.)

Anyway, I am tired, have much on my plate, but despite things beyond my control, I made it through the day and I should make it through tomorrow. Just have to finish these last items, and then school starts immediately thereafter. A little scared, and if there is a sudden death, then I’ll need an airplane flight. Otherwise, must keep going. Living at this point in time means that there isn’t that much time to process. Have to keep going no matter how dreadful or how joyous life gets. I wish that there was more joyous. All that I can do is to try to be good to people, comfort, and be kind.

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