Jun 292005

Okay, so I had to go to a memorial service on Sunday and I am still dealing with the experience.

It was strange on a few levels.

First and foremost, there is the loss of someone who was in my life, even if that has become a peripheral involvement over the last few years.
And there is the great sense of tragedy for the family.
That part is awful.

And there was the Big Chill factor.
I worked with Benjamin for about 8 years, and it was, at the time, a really close-knit group of people at that workplace.
Almost all of us have gone on to other things in the meantime, but there we all were, just like it was ten years ago.
It was one of the most surreal time-tweaking experiences I have ever had.

But the part that was really weird that was particular to me was the fact that on some level, I am the person many of those people expected to be dead by now, not Benjamin.
That is partly because Benjamin wasn’t someone you would expect to die at the age of 54. He ate pretty well and was a pretty active guy.
And, I think for many people, when they hear that someone they know has cancer, they begin that process of letting go, of anticipating the future loss, and pretty soon the person with cancer moves deeper and deeper into the territory of “other”.
Now, that isn’t true of everyone, but I certainly have felt it from some people over the last chunk of time.
So, it is bizarre on a lot of levels to show up at the memorial service of the guy who shouldn’t have died when you are the one that people had expected to die.
It’s sort of like I cheated death and somebody had to take my place.
(Or maybe I watched too much Buffy while I was sick and I have some Whedonesque guilt. I dunno.)
It was weird.
And I am still thinking it through.

One thing I will say… when that day does come when I kick up my heels, every one should know that there is no need for people to talk about my defects of character at any memorial service that may occur.
I’m just sayin’.
People get turned off by how smarmy a lot of these things are, and I tend to agree. But having spent some time listening to people be all touchy-feely and honest about the dead person’s shortcomings, I have to say, it’s no better, and actually, I think it’s worse.
Go have a beer with your inner circle and talk about that stuff.
Don’t say it in front of his kid or his partner or his brother.

Anyway, there it is.
So far, I am surviving, and it’s strange. Sometimes, it’s strange.
Of course, if you have been doing the recommended reading at home, you know that the ‘survivin’ status could change in a heartbeat.
But I am trying to be happy with what is good in the moment, because I would be so spectacularly pissed off if I had a recurrence and I hadn’t made the most of it now, while I am doing okay.

This last few weeks have been kind of weird.
See, I am a person who focuses on calendar dates quite a bit.
And right now is about a year after when I started chemo.
I keep thinking back to what it was like to be about to start chemo, and how overwhelming and frightening it was to have to start this thing I only knew by its bad reputation.
And how fast everything happened, and how fast my life changed from employed and pretty self-sufficient to being on disability unemployment insurance and having to rely on my girlfriend and my friends to get most basic things done.
I remember being afraid that the process would harden me emotionally, and I didn’t want that.
I think it did, and frankly, I can’t see any viable alternative.
Nowadays I think that my biggest job is to make sense of what I just went through, and then I realize that I don’t have a clue where I should begin with something like that.
And I wonder if I start, will I just sit down and cry about what I lost, and cry, and cry, and cry, and maybe never stop?
How will I stop?
There is a whole bunch of anger inside me because of what I lost, and then I feel unreasonable for being angry because, for Christ’s sake, I am still alive, against all odds, so what do I have to be pissed off about?
I had great care on every possible level.
I know that and I believe that.
And there is still an underlying anger that I had to go through that.
That I put Elaine through that.
That I have to spend so much effort to get back to where I was before and part of me knows I will never get there. That I can’t just become a normal person again.
It’s like I was abducted by aliens.
I know what happened and I know that it changed me, even if I do a crappy job of trying to explain it to you.
I know that the time I spent on Uranus has made me different than the average earthling.

When I was doing chemo, people told me I was brave.
See, I don’t see it that way.
I just did what I had to do and I think almost anyone would have done the same.
You just put one foot in front of the other and you do what they tell you, because you don’t have many realistic alternatives.
And now that there is time to breathe and time to look back over my shoulder, it’s time to try to make sense of it.
I feel a bit like I fell through the ice and then crawled back out and made my way to relative safety. I still know the ice could give out underneath me at any moment, but for now, I am still trying to get my vital signs back to normal and deal with the fact that I am freezing.
I don’t think I do a very good job of explaining it. I think my cancer comrades do a better job of explaining it in their blogs.

So, that’s where it’s at for me these days.
And no, if I bump into you in person, I don’t want to talk about it.
It’s just how it is.
I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for me or anything. I just need people to understand that even though I finished chemo, but I haven’t completely finished with the cancer episode.
I wish it was that way, but it’s not.

 Posted by at 11:05 pm

  3 Responses to “and playing the part of Lazarus…”

  1. This is me cheering you on, babycakes.

  2. De-lurking…

    1. I didn’t know about the trend for touchy-feely full-disclosure warts ‘n’ all eulogizin’. It sucks.

    2. There are always answers somewhere in “Buffy”. Like in “Gingerbread”, when Joyce tells Buffy that her vampire-slaying is just reacting, with no plan, that it’s fruitless. No fruit for Buffy. They’ll never run out of vampires. She’ll never win once and for all. And Angel reminds Buffy that the big win isn’t why they fight. It’s because there are things worth fighting for.

    I’m totally in favor of putting one foot in front of the other. You don’t have to get big-picturey if you don’t feel like it.

    And thanks for your writing.

  3. I think “abducted by aliens” is the best way to put it that I have ever heard. I will steal it in the future and pass it off as my own. What you said made perfect sense, at least to me. It sucks that you have to feel this way right now. For what it’s worth, I really admire you for how you have jumped right back in, working and buying a truck and the whole deal. I know you haven’t totally thought everything through and come to peace with it, but I think you are doing as good a job as anybody could.

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