July 29, 2011

Reminders everywhere!

It's hard not to think about death when you have been given a timeframe. It's sort of like waiting on death row. It's probably even worse for me because my mind is tuned to writing about the subject. However, I don't want to be thinking about death all the time, particularly my own. But there are always some reminders that I can't get away from, such as the pain that's with me all the time, but I'm slowly accepting that as just a part of who I am.

Most of the time, I am preoccupied with what I'm doing, whether it's talking to someone, watching tv, reading, etc. But even in the middle of these normal activities, there are things that remind me that I am going to die, and make me very sad. I can't hide from them, nor can I ask others to walk on tip toes around me, because it's inevitable that something I see or hear or that someone else says will trigger the thought.

For example, hearing about Jack Layton the other day (political leader and member of the prostate cancer club) really hit me hard. While his prostate cancer is under control, I still feel an affinity for him, and hearing that he is now fighting another cancer and seeing him look so thin and ... well ... ill, it made me wonder if he was going to make it through. And that made me think about myself because I know I'm not going to make it. I could put on a brave face and tell everyone that I'm going to beat this thing (as he did), but I'm not like that and I don't have any constituents to worry about. I wish him the very best of luck. This is really about him and not me but I can't control how my mind works.

Other things that bring thoughts of death closer are more innocent or even mundane. Often, when I'm watching a movie, something will happen to pop up these thoughts like a red flag. A character may die, especially someone's spouse. Or I'll see someone giving their life to save others and I wish I could do the same to make my death more worthy. It's sometimes obvious that the plot is set up for a sequel and I suddenly realize that I might not be around to see it. Sound silly?

I love dogs and have two great bearded collies - beautiful and friendly dogs. I got my oldest as a "therapy dog", a friend to walk with, play with and snuggle up to in bed. There's a lot of evidence supporting the emotional healing power of dogs. She makes me feel good. The youngest we got because she was so darn cute and Dianne and I are suckers for dogs. Sometimes, when I'm playing with them or just when they're looking at me with those big puppy dog eyes I wonder what they will think when I'm gone. Will they forget me soon? Will I see them again "on the other side". What about my other dog friends who have already died? Will my first beardie, Gibson (who I had a very special bond with), come bounding up to meet me on that sun-drenched field I read about? Weird, eh?

And then there are those times when I'm looking into my wife's eyes in a happy moment, a precious moment that for me will last forever, and I think about how much I will miss her. I'm thinking about my own death, but I don't want her to know. These are precious moments for her too and I won't spoil them for her.

After all, it's not all about me!


Lori Hope said...

My dear Doug, it does get to be about you. Just like when cancer happens, it gets to be about us. Cancer trumps mumps or almost anything. Death trumps it all.'

Although I am not dying now, as far as I know, I recently experienced the fear of – even after surgery when I had much pain and feared an infection would kill me (one hears horror stories). It’s a primordial fear, and a sadness. Before surgery I wrote letters to my son and husband (I always think I am going to die under the knife) and felt so sad that I would never see my grandchild. I survived, but may never see the grandchild anyway.

You are not silly, Doug, not silly at all. And I would like people to walk on tiptoes around you. I would like to send them all my book. You should be the one to bring up the subject; you should get to lead the dance. We should all carry each other, but when someone needs carrying more than another, we should forget ourselves for a while and let it be about them! (This is emphasized more in edition 2 of the book, out Sept 13 and which I know you will be here to see- I’ll send you a copy if you send me your address.)

You are such a gift to me and the world, and whether any of us continue in this plane, well, we will continue as gifts. I swear, you can call me crazy, but I feel my dad with me every moment. There’s nothing I’d like more than to have him beside me, live and in person, but life’s not like that. So I have to think that he would love being here in whatever form he is, and he would love that I think of him and have internalized so much of who he was/is.

I hope hope hope I’m not upsetting you with this talk. I’m being frank, because I love you, and I want you to accept your feelings and know that no one thinks you’re silly for being set off by news of others with prostate cancer…or movies… It’s happened to all of us who’ve had cancer. Question is, how do we get out of that (if we want to)?

I include a little piece in the new book about how to keep hope alive when others dash/dent it (and I know you have hope, if not for survival then for something). I’ll send it to you if you send your email addy.

Much love to you, Doug-

Kirsten said...

This entry was really beautifully written. Thank you for being open to sharing this part of you with all of us. I may not always comment, but I always am reading!

Anonymous said...

All of this blog is so wonderful & honest. Please know that you are, in a sense, 'dying nobly for someone else' by writing it! I suspect that's your hope, and to me you've succeeded.

Therapy dogs is such a wonderful idea. I'm sure they'll know when you're gone, and be a comfort to your loving wife. Most dogs seem to to take their job of comforting & loving their people seriously!

I have a friend who passed from a brain tumour. She fought the good fight, then died at home with great dignity - and, I have to say, a wonderful sense of humour. By the end she was very accepting, I think because she'd begun having dreams about 'the other side'. She would wake and tell how she'd seen her husband who had passed before her, and, yes, she told me once in true delight how she'd seen her beloved dogs who had died! She also told me she knew they'd be waiting for her. She used to joke about the pole by her bed she needed to stand up. It reminded her of the pole in a city bus, and I'm sure when she passed she climbed on a big white bus on her own two legs, wheelchair gone, with her husband and her dogs waiting for her on that top step.

I don't know why I'm sure - I guess I was convinced by her own conviction. But she taught me a lot, as you have. I'm not ill yet I think every day about doing the 'things that matter', & those are helping others, making a difference in the world, even if in little ways. Thanks for the difference you are making - you & Dianne.

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