Monday, April 03, 2006

Quality of Death

Sad news today
Through the email
A passing Friend

Sad news today indeed. Stephanie, a woman of grace and courage and love, died of brain cancer last Friday. The story is heartbreaking, the woman inspiring. In her early thirties, this gal had already twice fought against this disease valiantly and bravely, rallying and embracing life each time. And now she leaves behind her scores of mournful people. I didn’t know her as well as they did. My loss. What I do remember of her is her bouncy strawberry blonde hair with a mind of it’s own, her ready smile and the dancing twinkle in her eye. What a precious soul.

When our mutual friend, Jenny, got me up to speed on the situation (she was kindly waiting for my results to come through before sharing her load) she asked what, if any, suggestions I had for how to be with Steph as her days got short. I have said it before, I am no expert of this part of the process, and once I am I won’t be around to give any more suggestions on much of anything. But here is what I imagine is important (and I would love input from people who have supported loved ones through this, or any other insights from people):

1) Quality time with the people she loves.

2) Knowing she will live on in some way, through memories, through stories told about her, through ongoing donations to cancer organizations in her name.

3) Being reminded what impact she has had, that her life has huge meaning and that she contributed. She is an inspiration and a gift, and she needs to know and feel it.

4) Helping her find her way to peaceful thinking about this. I called it "quality of death" in one of my postings, and I don't know what it means exactly, but it is captured in the inspiring story of a friend of a friend who had breast cancer, metastasized to her brain. In the later stages of the disease and therefore of her life, she found the way to make friends with the cancer and with the experience, found the magic and the rightness in something so very, very wrong. She found a way to be grateful and to see what was good. She was able to keep remembering and knowing with all of her being that she is a precious child of God and everything will be ok, in the end.

There is little left to say, except that the world will be a less friendly place without Steph. My heart is with her and her family and friends. And though you may not have known her, please send prayers and love for her family and friends on Friday as they celebrate Steph and the magnificence of her life.


At 3:32 PM PDT, Blogger Alda said...

How very sad. On the other hand your suggestions are wonderful.

At 10:16 PM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

It is pretty heart breaking, this lovely, dynamic, young woman lost to this insatiable disease. When does it end?

And about the suggestions, I wonder at not living some of them all of the time. In regards to others, to really tell them how much they mean to us, how they contribute. We sure don't do that enough in the world. And then in regards to ourselves, to really find peace with where ever we are at, and whatever we are going through. There seems to be an inherent resistance. Personally I am in a tough spot right now (see Dark Night of the Soul), and am resisting just surrendering to it. I know that being more present with it, "making friends with it", etc., will change how I see the situation and myself, but darn it all if I don't keep resisting it, and struggling, and such.

At 4:41 PM PDT, Anonymous deb said...

Sorry about your friend Signy doll.

I'm no expert either, but you asked so ... here's what worked for me with my mom: I showed up. I met her where she was. I let her say what she wanted to say without trying to 'fix it' or turn it around and make it all hopeful (which many people do - so many folks don't know how to be with people in pain/near death).

So I guess, from my experience you ask them what they want/need, and that's what you do/be/bring to the party. If they don't know, you just do the best you can. (in the old coach lingo: it's their agenda, not yours ... )

Do I wish there had been another outcome for my mother? Abso-fuckin-lutely. But do I regret being there for her during the illness and by her bed when she died? Not one single bit ... at all. No regrets. Zip. And I think that's the way to do it. ;)

At 11:30 AM PDT, Blogger Signy said...

Deb, you are a powerhouse. Your wisdom runs deep. Your mother was a lucky woman and a wise one to have done such a good job of raising you up right!


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