…No man is an island, entire of itself; Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a man of thy friends of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee….
I suddenly this past week have found myself surrounded by reminders of death, specifically young, people my own age dying of cancer. Thursday, my brother just flew out to Nashville to say good bye to his friend and mentor, who just passed away from cancer at age 33. Then on Friday I watched that movie “A little Bit of Heaven” in which we follow Kate Hudson’s character through her diagnosis and ultimately death from cancer. Then randomly my normally science focused radio –lab podcast on Sunday was about the story of a man who tells the story of losing his girlfriend of 10 years to cancer in their early 20’s.
then finally today, I got the horrible call that one of the artisans I work with, Fernanda, had died.
She was diagnosed with cancer 6 months ago. Because the hospital where she could get free treatment was based in Quito, only a short bit away from my apartment, I went to visit her several times over the past few months. But i was never worried, she was going to get better.
We just saw her on Saturday. Only three days ago. We stopped in to say hi, and really to talk about this stupid clutch design. She was sitting in the car because she was cold. And in the sun, it was warmer than in their house. That seemed odd, but then I was like, well she’s much thinner now, and its got to be hard.
She was feeling down, but we talked about her boys being in soccer camp and how much they were enjoying that. I tried to make a joke about how silly fashion was.
But we were in a rush, there was so much to do. We didn’t stay long. I didn’t think it would be the last time I would see her.
She said they told her she had no more cancer cells. She only had to more chemo treatments. I thought it sounded like great news.
but she just kept talking about how hard it was, how much it was just so hard the treatments. But she only had two left. It was like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
The sadness fills me. I feel like I shouldn’t be so affected. I mean, we weren’t good friends. We worked together. But always got along so well.
Shes married and has two boys; the oldest is ten.
I didnt realize that we were the same age until I was visiting her in the hospital and I saw on the chart above her bed that we were both 28.
Such parallel, different lives. I could be her. I could be married, with two kids and battling cancer. But I’m not, I’m still wandering around here on this earth trying to figure myself out.
Now she’s gone, leaving behind a husband and two kids.
What would I leave behind?
The friends and family of Josh’s mentor, Will, were keeping a blog, to keep loved ones far away updated. It was incredibly raw and beautiful to read. I never met them, but they have definitively shared with me the most intimate details of their story.
Today on the walk from the church to the burial site, I read angie’s latest post. Its now been 4 days since Will died.
Embracing a man who is sobbing is probably one of the most retching things possible.
The man in the podcast said that afterwards he felt like he had suddenly realized that we are all walking around on thin ice which is cracking, but no one else seems to be paying attention or caring. That they just go on with life. But that he can see the people on the other side.
Francisco told me to try to see what God is telling me through all of this. What are you trying to tell me God? How do I even listen?
I have always felt so much the pain of death. It doesn’t matter that I know the person so well, I feel the loss. The utter tragedy and sadness of it. I have always been like this. I remember being back in high school and my mom just has the evening news on while making dinner. And story comes up about some soldiers in the middle east who have died in a car bombing or something like that. And I had to walk out of the room, because I couldn’t hold back the tears. I didn’t know those soldiers. I don’t know if I knew a single soldier in my life at that point. But I couldn’t help but think about those families, the dire pain that they must be feeling.
That’s what I keep thinking about now. How much pain carlos must be feeling, getting into bed for the first time along? This first night must just be unbearable the reminder so acute.
I hurt, because this is not how things are not supposed to be. I guess, that’s because this really is not how things are supposed to be. Death was not part of the Original Plan. And I guess that’s also part of the promise of our future eternity. That there will be no more death, and no more tears.
So I don’t feel so ridiculous for being so sad, for crying so hard because of Fernanda’s passing. From the moment I read that John Dunne poem I quoted above, I knew it spoke to me the way that few things do.
The interconnectedness of humanity. I don’t have to apologize for crying. It doesn’t matter if its an unknown soldier or an Iraqi man on the other side of the world. It doesn’t matter if its my closest friend. The death of any one, diminishes the whole of humanity.
(note: This post was actually written summer 2013, but i wasnt able to reread and publish it until now…)