Daily Archives: September 11, 2010

Life: good to the last breath

The previous post, which spoke about my father’s death, was painful for me to write and couldn’t have been easy to read either. As creatures who love and feel deeply, we will each encounter the hurt of separation from those we care about.

Even though my father was unable to share and articulate his own feelings at the end of his life, I still learned much by observing the manner in which he passed. There was a good deal about the way Ollie lived that I admired, yet I absolutely did not want to die as he had:  unprepared, afraid, angry and alone in his head with so much left unresolved.

I vowed that it would be different for me. The fact that I had lung cancer was out of my control, but how I chose to respond to my situation was very much of my own choosing. I didn’t want to be afraid, and I began to learn as much as I could about my cancer. I reasoned that if I knew what to possibly expect, not only could I make better choices (in regard to treatment and how I wished to spend my precious time), but I could minimize a huge component of fear:  the unknown.

I wanted to be as strong as possible for what lay ahead, so I started physical therapy and counseling and began taking an antidepressant.

Next on my list was tidying up and fixing those things in my life that felt messy and broken. My relationships to family and friends were all approached with a new perspective. I initiated the long (and ongoing) process of ordering my physical environment; my surroundings but also the way in which I approached tasks. I began to implement the order that I had always craved but found so elusive as my life became more complicated (all those grown-up responsibilities).

And, slowly, I reached back into and began to honor my creative core.

I am lucky that I’ve had some years to follow through with my plan. Part of what was so particularly brutal for my father was the speed with which his illness advanced. I too floundered initially, but was given a second chance in the ring.

The photos are from the session I had with Sadie near the end of September in 2005. It was several weeks out from my father’s diagnosis as well as my first ‘dirty’ scan post chemo. Death was much on my mind. I asked Sadie if she would photograph me with my eyes shut so that I could see what I would look like when I was dead. I was absolutely serious, but it was also difficult to keep a straight face.  Some weeks later, Sadie presented me with this framed copy from the session; I call it ‘happy dead’.

Anyway, on that note I will end with a wonderful quote attributed to Josephine Baker…

“To live is to dance. I would like to die, breathless, spent, at the end of a dance.”