Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beautiful, Terrible Life

Just last Wednesday I learned that one of my best friend's sister had cancer, stage IV. Only a few days earlier, she'd passed out from fluid that accumulated around her sick lungs and was admitted to the hospital only to learn her that her fate was quite bleak. Inoperable, untreatable. She received a short burst of radiation in an attempt to relieve the pain and discomfort in her chest. On Friday, she went to hospice care, and on Saturday, Maura Hanrahan Mahoney passed away peacefully surrounded by her friends and her amazing family.

I am selfish, and I am devastated. I knew Maura as a younger woman, in high school. So spirited, smiling, bright, possessing all the clich├ęs that those who die young seem to possess. The best of the best. The lives you can only imagine – living. She was a teacher, from an entire brood of teachers. All of her three siblings taught, following in the footsteps of their mother, who died too early and also from cancer.

I learned this soon after my diagnosis: There is a precipice, a very fragile one, between the dark and the light. And, in these past few days, I've been on the wrong side of the mountain.

Part of my despair comes from the sadness of my friend and the loss of his dear, dear sister. A 36-year-old woman with two young, beautiful daughters, with so much life, love, and laughter ahead.

But, part of my distress comes from knowing that that could have been me. Could still be me, in different terms. Mostly I'm disturbed that she didn't even get the chance to fight and didn't have time.

I remember when I was younger being posed a question: Would you rather be struck dead without any prior knowledge, or would you prefer to know the day and time that you would meet your fate? Fearing the difficulty of facing death and all that entails seemed to me too much to bear, and I chose the former. I would die unknowing. But, that was then. Time, precious time, has taken on new meaning for me. It is precarious, devilish, mysterious and fleeting, and I want every second I can get, and spent with the intention of a starving lion hunting its prey during a drought.

I have mourned the loss of Maura, but I can't stay there, in that sad pool of gray and lingering tightness and worry and red-eyed, stinging and blistering and burning. I have my own death to contend with, and I owe this to her. I fight for Maura. I win for Maura. And anyone else who has succumbed to this bastard of a disease. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

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