This is the first in a series of Community Grief Stories I've collected from students in my Healthy Grieving class. Please welcome Deborah Benson with our first installment. If you have comments for her, please add them below.
Death is to Life like the night is to the day
Birth is followed by decay
Like the day ends with dusk
So our bodies rust and turn to dust
Life is the day like Death is the night
Like night flees by dawn’s first light
Death is followed by rebirth
So the Universe is full of mirth
Light nor Dark can exist without the other
So neither Life nor Death can exist without each other
At dawn we go to the Sky Father
And at dawn we come from the Earth Mother
By that irony our immortal souls seem not bothered.
Several months ago, I found a lump in my breast. The doctor who examined me last week informed me that at this stage, it is more likely to be cancerous than benign. Even after preparing myself, I find that I am sliding into grief all over again. And in that grief, the Muses have come to visit, gave me this poem, and left their sister, Melancholy, behind to keep me company late at night when I can’t sleep due to the pain in my breast.
I have had Parkinson’s disease for the last seven years. I applied a positive attitude to it as I came around to accepting it and what I had to do, the changes I had to make, in order to have a good quality of a life. It may have worked too well. I have come to appreciate life for the first time, enjoying it in the moment and savoring every day the sun rose like never before in my life.
So I am sitting here trying to find the silver lining to perhaps dying within, say, one year if the cancer has spread too far, in stark contrast to the ten years I had hoped for to keep walking under my own volition with just the Parkinson’s disease. It is hard to wade through the stages of grief as I try to face my own death coming so much more quickly and yet try to live what I have left of life to the fullest. At first, I felt that it wasn’t fair, but now I think that it just plain sucks. It is like crashing into a wall where the dreams I did have left were the first casualties, besides the books in my personal library.
When I speak of my anxiety over surgery and the treatments afterward, the phrase I keep hearing from others—“There will be light at the end of the tunnel”— only leaves me chilled to the bone, not reassured that I will do fine. The metaphor is far too close to that dark and long tunnel where I lead those lost spirits that have sought me out on Earth through to the Light. That tunnel is none other than what humans see in near-death experiences.
Perhaps the worst is yet to come—I will have to tell my two grown children that I am once again struggling with a disease, but this time I may die. How does a mother tell her children that she is dying? I may never see my grandchildren grow up unless I were to pop in as an angel to watch over them, but then the “I” that they knew, or could have known, will be gone, never to hold them in my physical arms. The greatest emotional pain right now is that I have never seen my second granddaughter and may not be well enough, or alive, to be there at the birth of my daughter’s third child as I had planned.
It’s not my death that I fear; it’s the letting go of such a rich and joy-filled life I have finally found that hurts so much.
Be life! Be alive!
~Deborah M. Benson