I have spoken to 20 or more people per day, every day for the past dozen years, who are either dying of cancer or whose love one is in the process. It doesn’t get any easier after all this time. After 10,000 cases, I understand the various ways the body is attacked by and succumbs to outside forces and I am invited daily into the tragedies that are befalling the families in my midst.
Cancer shows no mercy to age or position. It is not a logical being. I have seen no pattern that could explain its whims and sit in awe of when it will come for me. It seems you have been given, for whatever reason, a pass to experience life with this person at a slower decline than many. My beloved cousin was taken from me at 42 years of age within two months of diagnosis. She was a light of happiness to all that stood in her shadow.
She taught me even in her passing that life is to be lived. At her funeral, the church was filled and overflowing. She was buried on one of the barrier islands off the South Carolina coast. Afterward, a group of 500 or so guests retired to her husband’s intercoastal waterway home where we shared stories of her life. As the sun set, he asked us all out onto a dock that reached about a hundred yards into the intercoastal to raise our champaign glasses to the setting sun in memory of Shann.
We walked out toward the pavilion at the end of the dock where it rose about 20 feet off the glassy water, swirling currents of reflecting pink coral sky at dusk. With several hundred people on the dock, one of the well wishers just snapped, that is how I would explain it. He ran headlong off the dock heaving his tux laden body into a cannon ball and shouting, "Bye my friend Shann" as he splashed below.
The moment took this upper crust, Charleston gentility by surprise as this was a solemn occasion and gathering. My mother was the next to go. She dropped her high heels on the dock and letting out a rebel yell, she tossed her 72 year old frame into the salty brine. Well, if this old woman could irreverently tip her hat to my cousin, then it of course called for all to follow or it would besmirch my mother’s dignity. One by one, these well dressed and well healed funeral goers jumped or dove into the drink, shouting out well wishes for my cousin.
Her brother stripped to his whity tighties and tearfully exclaimed his undying love as he flashed his broad body with outstretched arms and legs in a wide arch just to belly flop 20 feet later. Next to go was the priest, who after just having laid my cousin solemnly to rest, did a summersault into the intercoastal as he yelled “We are all going to hell!” The now totally charged comradery even threw a paraplegicinto the drink while sitting in his wheel chair as he requested. Before my turn, I witnessed a starched lady grasping her hat to her head with one hand and pulling her dress above her knees with the other so as to get a proper run at it. Her husband ran after her shouting, “Honey, the pearls…” obviously pointing to the large beads that adorned her neck. She shouted back just before departing the edge of the dock, “Don’t worry, they’re insured!”
The antics had gotten out of control as the sun fully set when a passing yacht called out on its loud speaker, “Looks like a great party, can we join you?” It was a bit too dark to see the several hundred bobbing suits and dresses below, so I am not sure who answered next, but from the depths came the stern answer, “For God’s sake, this is a funeral. Have some respect for the dead!”
My beloved Shann passed, yet even this last day, her spirit filled the guests with a loving memory. Two years is tragic. I am thankful you have them.