This past week, while I moaned and groaned and laughed about our construction project, and pondered gay marriage and vaccines, and grumbled about the craziness of being full-time with summer vacation kids, and otherwise filled my days with inanities, a really spectacular mom whose daughter goes to school with Jesse ended her battle against breast cancer. The medicine failed. She died today.
Kim and I crossed paths now and then, and I always enjoyed chatting with her. I liked her a good deal, but we weren’t exactly friends, just acquaintances. She was a veterinarian, and she volunteered at the local Audubon Center. She would come to the preschool classes there sometimes and work with the kids, including my own Jesse and Nick. She was brave and heroic about the cancer when we talked about it, committed to the fight and to staying alive for her kids. I was really inspired by her.
I thought Kim was going to make it. The initial treatments a few years ago were successful, with reports that her body was cancer-free. I didn’t know the cancer had returned.
We embrace this myth that we can find the causes for things, that we can fix things, that we have some control over the shit nature pulls on us. We think we can blame big pharm, vaccines, pesticides, big coal, the Koch brothers, plastics, over-fishing, global warming, technology, medical malpractice, gluten, red meat, on and on. And occasionally that’s true, there really is someone to blame. But more often it’s just random noise. Nature hits us with a bomb like cancer, and we go down. It’s unfair.
I always have a feeling of guilt when I hear about someone like Kim passing. I know she didn’t deserve to die more than me. Why am I still here and not her? What did I do to earn this state of grace in which I live, at least for today? Nothing. The answer is, nothing.
In the face of someone else’s death, some people will say that it reminds them to appreciate their lives more, that it makes them enjoy their lives more. I don’t move in that direction. I can’t look at Kim’s suffering and her family’s loss and feel better about my own lot. It is all just a bitter pill, and I’m filled with a gut-twisting sadness for Kim and her family.
But when I go to bed tonight, I’ll definitely drop a few extra kisses on my kids and stare into their sleeping faces a little longer. And I guess I can be thankful for that. Namaste, Kim, and thanks for fighting the good fight. Good bye.