Archive for June, 2011

It’s Life and Death

June 30, 2011

Two weeks ago I found out that someone very close to me has a terminal illness. I have seen death up close before. But this seemed to have come out of the blue, and she is not very much older than me. She didn’t want to speak to anyone for a little while after she got the diagnosis. I didn’t know how she was so I imagined the worst. I fell asleep pretty easily but I would awaken early and conjure images of her under covers, scared, sad, in pain, near death.
She called me a few days after I’d heard the news and when I heard her voice I almost dropped the phone. She sounded strong and clear, scared of course, but still totally her.
Of course life is not a movie, and she has many months or even almost two years of living to do before her illness ends her time on earth. The ability to exist with that information is as puzzling and difficult as the news of her illness.
Being human I think of myself most of the time. Everything that happens turns into some parable about my life, my problems, my days and nights. Even this, which should be all about her, has become about me. I mean I always wondered what I would do if I had X amount of time to live, knowing it, having a date. It’s like lottery fantasies, only sadder. So, I think about it more than usual. Would I use this information to get a residency at Yaddo or MacDowell? Would I quit all my jobs (not that the loss of income would make any difference) and devote my time to Noah, Andy, and my artwork? Would that devotion mean anything in the big scheme of things?
I never believed that a person who wasn’t actually facing imminent death could actually live life as though it could end in an instant, because I think that except when you are in a war, a death camp, a prison, a cancer ward,the bottom of a canyon, you never really and truly believe that your life will end in an instant, so you go on worrying about dustballs, irritations with family, the cost of gas, politics, polar bears, global warming, missed movies, and a hundred other silly and important things.
I am always aware of time and of money and I always feel like there is never enough of either of them. I want to finish my gloves and my slinky drawings, see my son graduate from college, maybe find someone to love, win a Tony award. I want to renovate my house, replace old carpets with cat poo stains, thoroughly clean my whole house.
So, I have to think about this person who is dying with a capital D. But I guess it doesn’t do any real good to imagine my own death unless it will make a difference in the way I live. And the truth is that I pretty much do devote as much time as I can to my artwork, my son and husband, and my friends, as I can. I miss a lot of movies. I think that most of the time I make good choices about how to spend my days, but I’ll never know. I am angry that it has taken me so long to be driven…if I were ten years younger I’d be right on track. But I have been granted this much time so far and it’s a lucky thing, because I am a late bloomer for sure.