Posted by: Rachel | January 24, 2015

For Ben and Anna

I have that lump in my throat. It’s a lump that comes with many thoughts but words that just don’t seem to do justice to the thoughts. I want to say words of condolence, words of hope or reassurance. But all I can think of is ‘This sucks’ and ‘This is hard and not fun and completely awful.’

My daughter has a classmate who’s father was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. They gave him only a number of months to live. And I know they were trying to make the best of those months, to use those months to make decisions about the future. I know this in part because I was part of one of those decisions. They own a small business and with Ben’s illness he was no longer able to do his part of the business, designing wall decals. When his wife Anna posted a request on Facebook asking for those interested to contact her I jumped at the opportunity. It’s the kind of thing that I enjoy doing, my first thought wasn’t ‘job’ but ‘fun.’ I sent them some of my work and then met them at their home to discuss the job.

It’s sad to know that you are being given an opportunity to do something in a field of work that you’ve long wanted to pursue, but only because of someone’s cancer diagnosis. Yet I was heartened to see them make these decisions, glad that they could discuss the future and prepare for it. We all know that death awaits us and yet we so rarely plan for it’s implications. I thought them to be so brave.

Last spring Ben’s son was on his senior trip when one of his classmates died unexpectedly. A few weeks later another classmate passed away after a long battle with cancer. I remember talking with Ben and Anna after Jared’s death, Ben saying how hard it was to have his son so far away at the time. Wishing they could bring him home.

Their family is able to be together and they have been able to prepare to a very small extent for this. But death is so frustrating, it never gives. It is difficult when it is sudden, difficult when it takes long and there is suffering. Difficult in youth and difficult in middle age. The death of an infant robs us of promise, the death of elderly takes away wisdom.

The only joy that I can find in the sadness of death is that when death is not sad then it means life is not full. If life was not filled with family, with friends and promise, then life would be empty and death not nearly so anguished.

I’ve suffered with depression for many years. When I get really low I think about death. It’s not that I want to die, just that I no longer have a desire to live. When I think of the kind of desperate life that wishes to no longer live, then the mourning of imminent death becomes hauntingly sweet, speaking of the joy contained by a vibrant life.

But death still sucks, and it’s still gives us lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes. There is just no way to get past that.

***Please keep Ben and Anna and their children in your thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time in their life.

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