Tuesday 15 September 2009

Treating A Monster With Poison

This was how Patrick Swayze described what was available to treat his pancreatic cancer. Despite everything he did, despite his force of character, his insights, his bravery he still died of cancer. Yesterday he was here, today he was gone. Keith Floyd died today too, of a heart attack, even though his friends when interviewed said of him, with genuine feeling, that he was unique. One of a kind, a maverick, one in a million. And his heart gave out and he died.

So this thing that will come to us all came to two public personalities today. I am afraid of just going, I fear dropping dead one day or dying in my sleep. I want to prepare for my death, I want to go hand in hand with it, so I can let it happen and not be obliterated in one fell swoop. Of course, no one knows if we are obliterated. If I die in my sleep, I may follow the light, probably still grumbling and yawning with sleep in my eyes, and meet God in my nightie. Or if I die suddenly I may of course be able to watch what is going on and be aware of the fact that I am dead, from a safe distance 3 feet in the air. Then I will tut and shake my head that I was wearing the wrong spotty knickers with the wrong pink bra and now all the ambulance crew will think I can't co-ordinate my undies.

If we are obliterated, then I guess there is only blackness and nothing. The most you can hope for is that your remains will nurture a lovely tree that in my case, will thrive spookily well on the remains of tea from the teapot, and will grow in a uniquely arty way.

I had a dream before Steve was diagnosed with his liver cancer. I was in his boat with him on a sandy estuary. The dream began with me clambering out of the boat in utter devastation and leaving him standing on the deck. I ran weeping and full of pain along the sand in the puddles, not looking back, shattered that he was leaving me. All of a sudden, I dropped onto the sand in a heap, as a dead weight, and rose almost instantly with utter joy, and began to run back to Steve, my feet 6 inches above the sand. I felt total bliss, such wonderful peace and happiness as I knew I would see him again. Before I reached him, I woke up.

Another time I knew he was going to die was when we went to New York to see Yeshi Donden, a wonderful Tibetan Monk in his eighties who was the Dalai Lama's physician. When Steve sat opposite this stout old beautiful monk, and they gazed at each other, I saw Steve as a grey shadow. I knew then that he could not stay with me much longer, that this cancer that he had could not be touched. The contrast between them was the physical embodiment of life and death; this elderly monk who spoke through a translator, who had had a life time of study and medical practice and experience sitting opposite my Steve with their knees touching, Steve only 51 years old, an engineer with two degrees in aeronautical engineering and sound and vibration - Steve who was happiest on his boat fishing out to sea, Steve who told me he wasn't going anywhere and he would always be with me, the contrast was absolutely heartbreaking.

And so. When I go, I think I would like to have the world slowly fade from my sight, not have it snatched away and the lights put out. I would like to sink slowly away so that I could relinquish my body, my mind and my spirit bit by bit until I see bus loads of old relatives and friends float in through the window, led by Steve who looks plump and healthy. They will all come and stand round my bed blowing party whistles and blowing up balloons, telling each other jokes and laughing uproariously. Time to come with us, they will say. And my wonderful Irish grandma will hold up her hands in welcome like she did when I was little and I will say Grandma! Are there chips in Heaven! (we grandchildren always made her make us chips and tea with sugar in it, and being a perfect grandmother, she always did). Then Grandma and Steve will each take my hand and the whole party will cheer and explode celestial party poppers while I will float out of the window with them to a land of chips, tea and endless fun and games. And those around me will remember my last words as Grandma! Are there chips in Heaven! and will wonder where the faint smell of party poppers is coming from.

This exhibition is making me wish I could understand where Steve went. Recently I had a very good well written article written for our local papers here, and the night before it came out I spent the night with Steve holding my head while I slept. It was utterly wonderful and I wondered when I woke why I had had those dreams, I could still feel his hands. Maybe it was his way of saying Jolly good article. Got me to a tee. Actually, Steve knows Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze and Keith Floyd now. Gosh, maybe he'll bring them in the bus with Grandma when it is my time to go.

1 comment:

  1. I thought of you when I heard about Patrick S and Floyd. I hope you have a great break. You deserve it.