I have a dear friend who is dying of colorectal cancer. It started in his colon 6 years ago and has now obliterated most of his abdominal organs and invaded his lungs. I will likely never see him again. But I've been thinking of him, constantly.
I want to know everything about him. I want to know what he's thinking, how he is feeling, what he wants me to do and how I can best show him how much he means to me. I just want him to know that I've always cherished his friendship and love him in a way that would leave a gaping hole in my heart when he is gone. But I can't. I haven't seen him in over a year since we left Sydney and our communications have been few and far between.
It's really hard to send an email going 'Hey! How are things? We're having a great time in New York but I can't bear the thought of getting a job again'. You can't say shit like that to someone who is dying. It's everyday drivel that you think about and stress over and it encompasses all your energy but in light of cancer - it's not even worth mentioning.
This is my first intimate encounter with death, and so far I'm at a loss. I've been a stagnant friend. Paralysed by fear for saying the wrong thing, of not treating his problem with the utmost respect it deserves and trying to be 'normal' about everything when it's clearly not. He really is the kind of person though who does NOT want me to do all these things I'm sure. He's always smiling and wouldn't want you to look at him with sad eyes full of tears. At 28 years he's mastered the ability to actually be zen and filter through feelings you only need. I sure could learn something from him. I wish he'd be around to teach me.
Though he has taught me so much already. Through his chemo and constant hospital visits, his strength has been inspiring. He has come to term already with his own mortality and knows that another life awaits him so he is able to let go of this one. As morbid as it sounds, any one of us can be struck down tomorrow and his failing health shows me that our lives are but a fluttering flame that may be extinguished at any point. We go around with a careless sense of indestructibility. We don't look after ourselves, make poor life choices, stress over needless worries and fail to look at the bigger picture.
I'm going to go out and run through fields of flowers and treat myself to a cupcake on the way and not care about life's little worries. Because that's what my friend would want me to do. And in those quiet moments of reflection I'll smile when I think of him and how lucky I am to have such a person in my life.