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[cancer] An odd thing about me and mortality - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-02-04 05:21
Subject: [cancer] An odd thing about me and mortality
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, family, friends, health, personal
I've been carrying another thought about my mortality lately. I'm 48 years old, and I've never lost anyone truly close to me. Dad, (step)mom and mom are alive, as are my siblings. One set of grandparents died before I was born, and I was never terribly close to my other two sets. None of my closest friends have died of accident or disease. Even the late Mark Bourne, whom I do miss terribly, was never a daily presence in my life.

In other words, given that I currently have the shortest life expectancy in my family by a fairly drastic margin, I may well leave this world before my fiftieth birthday without ever having gone through the experience of the death of a close loved one from the mourning side. As I said recently, death is the least surprising part of life. But I won't really know what my family and friends are experiencing because I've never been there.

I can't decide if this is a blessing, an irony, or a curse. It does seem significant, but I can't pin down why.

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kit: drwho_thecoat
User: mizkit
Date: 2013-02-04 13:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:drwho_thecoat
This is a weird time to be telling you you're incredibly lucky, but you are. The first meaningful death in my family happened when I was 8; my paternal grandfather died then. It hit me about two years later. For some reason I'd been thinking about that very thing just yesterday. I woke up in the middle of the night utterly devastated, wanting to see my Grandpa Murphy, knowing I'd never be able to again. It confused my parents greatly, I think.

Our high school was a bit like Sunnyvale High: four kids in my class and a teacher died before we graduated, and four others either in my class or one year behind/ahead died in the next year. I--we--got introduced to that particular grief early and hard.

With that in mind, honestly, I think it's all of those things: a blessing, an irony, and a curse. In that order, because while loss of a loved one is a human experience and at least from a writerly point of view, one wants to know and experience in order to bring something to the work, so yes, ironic. A curse, because all you can do is imagine what it's like for those left behind.

But mostly, a blessing, because you *don't* know know what it's like, and right now you've got enough on you without having to know in your bones what people are going to go through when you're gone. I think I'd say be grateful on this count. I think there are worse things than bowing out without ever having known the other side of it.
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mevennen
User: mevennen
Date: 2013-02-04 14:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't recommend it. Being widowed, you're never sure whether you'd rather lose someone else close to you, than have them go through the appalling shit that you've been through if you die first. I'm not sure if that makes sense! I'm in 'writing about Mars' mode and possibly insufficiently articulate here.
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Jay Lake: wry-NKPR_guitar
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-02-04 14:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:wry-NKPR_guitar
Your despatch from the Red Planet seems clear enough to me. ;)
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threeoutside
User: threeoutside
Date: 2013-02-04 15:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It just is. From the other comments you'll see votes on both "sides" of the blessing/curse question. But it's not really a question, it's just your situation. You can rejoice that all your loved ones have a strong support group amongst them. Eventually, they can rejoice that they had you in their lives.

I've lost so, so many people from my life. I would greatly prefer it, sir, that you not be one of them. I know you're doing your best to arrange that. ;^)
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joycemocha
User: joycemocha
Date: 2013-02-04 14:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's a blessing. Going through it, especially if you've walked with the dying person through what happens before the end, and then mourning afterward....it's a blessing.

It also means that it has those who are closest to you still available and helping.
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e_bourne
User: e_bourne
Date: 2013-02-04 15:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As I approach the first anniversary of my husband's death (the aforementioned Mark Bourne) -- Not a blessing. Definitely not something I would wish on anyone else. Not even those I dislike.

And it's not like I'm unfamiliar with death. My sister died when I was a child. My father and all grandparents died while I was in HS. My mother died when I was in my forties. I have sat by the death bed of more than one friend, waiting for the lights to go out.

Losing my husband? Fucking devastating and frankly, that's a "writerly experience" I could do without.

Death is the bow that ties up a life. I get that. But the deaths of the young, the not-ready, the surprised -- it makes me angry. And, being the type of person I am, I will fight that with every fiber of my being until I inevitably lose.

Do not go gentle into the motherfucking night indeed.
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mevennen
User: mevennen
Date: 2013-02-04 16:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Quite. My cousin died last Thursday, somewhat unexpectedly (she went into hospital with what was supposed to be a minor respiratory infection - 3 weeks later, it's a hospice and palliative care, and then she was gone). To say I could do without this is putting it mildly.
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e_bourne
User: e_bourne
Date: 2013-02-05 03:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm so sorry to hear about your cousin. It is shocking how quickly we can go, from the slightest thing. You and your family have my sympathy in your loss.
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Elizabeth Coleman
User: criada
Date: 2013-02-04 15:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think you pin it down pretty well: "I won't really know what my family and friends are experiencing because I've never been there." Grief is a powerful shared experience, and it is ironic that you aren't able to share in an aspect of your own life. I've been at cons where people have come together to mourn friends I never knew (e.g. Charles Brown, Ken Rand) and at those gatherings, I was acutely aware of my status as newcomer and outsider. I can imagine that feeling like that, but for your very own life, must be highly unsettling.
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barbarienne
User: barbarienne
Date: 2013-02-04 17:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I suspect you are the sort of person who wants to experience all that life offers, good and bad, and this is an experience you're going to miss. And maybe you don't like that--DAMMIT, I'M MISSING A THING!--but at the same time, it's not a thing anyone wants really; it's just a thing that life forces on most of us sooner or later.

That you may not get to experience it rather highlights the seriousness of your own situation.

The death of my father was horrible, and 8 years on I can still trigger the waterworks pretty much instantly. However, he died at the age of 72, a not-unlikely age for a man who'd had bypass surgery 14 years earlier.

As I said to myself through most of the mourning process, it's normal. It is the normal course of things for parents to die before their children. It's what we all wish will happen, once we realize that people don't live forever.

It sucks that your parents will probably experience the grief of their child dying before they do. OTOH, they are fortunate to get some warning and you will all be able to say goodbye. Life is never orderly and neat, and rarely fair. But you know that far better than I do.
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mlerules: Cruella
User: mlerules
Date: 2013-02-04 18:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Cruella
You hit it in the middle of the list: ironic. *sigh*

I have experienced it. It sucks. But it does hugely increase one's desire (and perhaps sharpens one's ability) to live now and appreciate what one's got hugely while it's around.

ox
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cathshaffer
User: cathshaffer
Date: 2013-02-04 18:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A blessing. Don't think about it too much.
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Karen
User: klwilliams
Date: 2013-02-04 20:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's best you not know what it's like to lose someone close, because you won't know what your loved ones will go through when you're gone. My best friend of eighteen years (of the "finish each other's sentences" variety) died five years ago, after going through many horrible health issues. Since then, my personal hero and one of my best friends died unexpectedly, and my oldest childhood friend (whom I'd been friends with since the sixth grade) died of a particularly horrible suicide. And that's not even mentioning all the acquaintances in the last ten years who've gone. And none of these friends had reached fifty yet. I'm (still) really hoping you do. Hell, I'm really hoping I do, even though there's no reason I shouldn't.
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martianmooncrab
User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2013-02-04 21:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Between my 22nd birthday (my maternal Grandpa died on my birthday) to my last remaining Grandma when I was 48, I have been to a lot of family funerals.

The worst was my cousin who I was raised with like a sister when I was 33 1/2. Lets just say I took the news very badly and scared the shit out of the person who informed me of her death. It felt like my heart and soul had been ripped from my body.

Losing my Dad when I was 43 wasnt as harsh, but it still hurts. It took me years before I could speak of that and not cry at some point.

Grief is a very personal thing, we all express it differently, our mourning may be quick and dealt with easily, and others, well, its a constant learning curve.

I will mourn your passing when your time comes, but let me tell ya, I wont have any openings for that event for quite some time.. so, you cant do that anytime soon. Nope. Not allowed.

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Agent Mimi
User: agent_mimi
Date: 2013-03-31 11:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm exceptionally late to this, but I echo what others have said about it being a blessing. My parents were older when I was born, so my childhood was filled with funerals -- great grandparents, grandparents, great aunts and uncles. By my early 30s both my parents had died, too. (By then I was pretty much the only family member left, so I dealt with their deaths mostly alone. I don't recommend it.)

It can be a curse in a way, I suppose, though from what I've read of your family and friends they are strong and have each other for support, and you're obviously concerned for their future as well. As threeoutside said, eventually the grief will be tempered and they will have wonderful memories of you having been in their lives.

Best wishes, Jay, and best of luck. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to drop in and say so.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-03-31 16:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you, and I feel for your experience.
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