Category: Death and Dying

Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No. 4

The White Horse
(for Ann)

Death comes on a white horse
to carry you away

I see the love in Her eyes as
she lifts you carefully
and cradles you in Her arms

You go willingly, eagerly,
even though you know

you can't come home again

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

I miss you, Ann.

Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No. 3

Shoreline
(for Ann)

Everything seems
so distant
now

Is Life receding or
is Eternity
approaching?

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines, (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

 

Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No. 2

This is August–the month in which I wrote several poems for my dear friend, trying to cope with her dying, trying not to be scared for myself, trying to find courage. (See No. 1)

Questions

how do you live
when your life has been
reduced to dying?

where do you find
some shreds of joy
amidst the crying?

when is it time
to cut the bonds and
give up trying?

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear, and Loneliness (C) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

More poems for Ann to come…

 

Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No.1

Pink Underbelly has an interesting post on her blog about a trip to her oncologist's office, ending with a paragraph on survivor's guilt.

I agree with her that it doesn't make sense to dwell on feeling guilty because we have been spared from dying of breast cancer. So far. Breast cancer is not a contest to see who has had the toughest time. It is a life-threatening disease that can recur at any time.

But twinges of survivor guilt do plague me from time to time.

And this is August, the month in 1991 that one of my best friends died. She refused nourishment from the beginning of the month, but didn't die until the end. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. Did she beat breast cancer and then die of stomach cancer? Or did she die of metastasized breast cancer? I'm not sure I know. She died.

And this is August. The month that her husband asked me to plan her funeral, just six weeks after my second mastectomy. He said "What I need for this job is a good anal-retentive German!" That I am. It was hard for me, but it was the last gift I could give her.

And as I contemplate why she died in her mid 50s and I live at almost 82, do I feel guilty? Perhaps. But I neither caused her death nor prevented my own. I feel sadness for her and deep gratitude for myself. She would have loved her grandchildren as I love mine.  

I'd like to share a journal entry from August 2, 1991:

She called me today to come say goodbye. Remembering how much my teddy year had comforted me the night after my second mastectomy a couple of weeks ago, I took Courageous Lion to her. She immediately drew him close.

I assured her that I supported her decision to refuse the intravenous feedings, even though we both knew what that meant. I could see she felt peaceful and that has continued to sustain me.

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness, (C) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

 More to come…

 

 

Breast Cancer Is No Joke

Myth – Breast cancer is not a serious disease.

Donna Peach has a new article that speaks to the way breast cancer has been trivialized in some circles to the point that people almost have the impression that no one dies from it these days. The fact is that around 40,000 women and about 400 men still die from breast cancer every year. (Obviously, I have been one of the lucky ones so far. And so have you if you're reading this.)

Breast cancer events are often touted as fun, celebrations, victories. There are balloons and streamers and pink hats. (Granted, I have also seen tears.)

Breasts are referred to by any number of trivializing names. "Boobs" is one.  Donna mentions several other popular and weird ones.

If you have had breast cancer or know someone who has, you will be interested in reading her thoughts. 

And tomorrow I'll post a poem for all of you. Promise.