zen.org Communal Weblog

March 27, 2007

Vicious Reality

Filed under: — brendan @ 21:00 IST

A month ago I received a call from a good friend, someone my own age of 36, who in a very weak scratchy voice told me he’s got terminal pancreatic cancer and has less than six months to live.

I went in to visit him today for the first time. He was able to get admitted to the Blackrock Hospice, an amazing place with really nice and talented people. He describes it as the best place in the country for care if you’re not going to be coming back out. They offer what for me is a new term: Palliative care, where they know they can’t stop what’s happening so they try to make it at least cause less suffering.

He’s previously divorced with joint custody of two kids: a boy and a girl both under the age of 10. They go to the same school as our five year-old son Patrick, who is there because of the friend’s suggestion. Our friend is also newly married—and his wife is about 7 months pregnant. (When he called, they were still engaged.) His ex-wife will presumably take care of the first two kids, and has the task ahead of telling them he’s not just sick. I can’t imagine what his fianceĆ©-now-wife is feeling. We’re going to try to give her as much help as we can with the baby expected in May.

This is my first exposure to the imminent loss of a great person close to me and in my own age group. My heart and mind have to figure out how to deal with this, other than the current reaction of recoiling in horror. Well, that’s not entirely true—they already know part of it: visit him as much as I find bearable over his last four months. He’s now unable to focus well enough to read or draw or do puzzles, though he can take part in conversation. He’s often stuck just lying there, his morphine supply buffering him from the physical pain, and maybe from even part of the vicious reality that he’s dying inside. Having someone there talking about random things of current life is actually really pleasant, he tells me.

I know the visits ahead are only going to be harder, but I’m convinced it’s worth the effort. It’s a little more time to share with him. Time that’s shrinking fast and in a blink will vanish completely.

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