I have a friend dying of cancer. Okay, I would like to have more hope and think he’s NOT ‘dying’ but that he is going to be able to beat it… but it is stage 4 cancer and it has spread to other vital parts of his body so my intellect says he’s closer to death; my heart says he must and will beat it.
My friend -let’s call him ‘Leonardo’- is a mere 36 years old. Leonardo’s as old as my fiance when he passed. 36 is too young. Leonardo had just gotten married to Michellyn*, his girlfriend of 15 years. He had put it off until he was financially stable enough to ‘give her a good life’. We’ve known Michellyn since we were all in high school. She could have cared less about his financial stability; she loved him and would follow him wherever he would have gone.
Leonardo has only known about his cancer for about 1 month; it was renal cancer and had chaulked up his fatigue to bouts of the flu and his renal pain to self-diagnosed hemmoroids. Everyone is still in shock.
So I’m visiting, we’re kicking it in Leonardo and Michellyn’s apartment to watch Leonardo’s favorite- a Giants’ baseball game. You know, bring some food, conversate, fellowship. We talk a little about my fiance’s funeral, we talk about chemo. But really, I don’t know why I’m here or what I’m trying to do with my visit. It’s like we all want life to continue and to make him happy and show our support, but at the same time, I can see how he’s trying so hard to ‘be normal’ when he’s so obviously doubled over in pain. I’ve just recently moved back from LA so to me, he looks skinnier and pale. Living far away, it makes changes seem more drastic than they really are, but no… he’s really skinny and pale.
His wife sits worriedly at the adjoining dining table. She doesn’t smile and she’s not as joke-y… which is not her.
Leonardo is sitting on the sofa and makes jokes like he always does; he explains what the doctors are saying about his condition and how he’s coping. He tells a story of when he almost passed out on the toilet; he had lost so much fluid and the pain was so great. How Michellyn came in, cleaned him up, and drove him in a rush to the hospital.
Leonardo stops and turns his eyes away. “I feel bad that she has to take care of me,” he softly says. His wife grunts and waves her hand dismissively, “Oh come on, hon,” she croaks firmly.
But you can see it in his eyes: the shame of being 36 and having his wife clean his ass for him. This is not what he expected to give her at their wedding 1 year ago. And you can see it in her eyes: she is scared, she feels incompetant, she is overwhelmed by all the decision-making.
And yet this is love.
It’s not about the glorious and copious sex, the endless talk of the future, or the amazing sunsets and sunrises… although they are all building blocks to the greatness that is love. It is when the chips are down, are we able to rise to the occasion?
I think to myself if my fiance or myself would have done that, rose to the occasion when the occasion called for it. And despite his cheating ways, I know I still would have done it for him… and part of me thinks he would have done it for me. Because doesn’t love make you do things you never thought you could? Or were capable of doing?
An awkward silence has fallen in the room. Partially because Leonardo and his wife are looking at me. They might be quietly assessing themselves how much weight I’ve lost and how my hair has thinned and that maybe I too, am not as joke-y as since before my fiance died. I am a living example of what their future might be. They shoot furtive glances at each other, “Please don’t leave me. Please please please don’t leave me.” And I in turn, sit there longingly staring at them, and envy that if they have to say goodbye, they are able to say everything…resolve everything…. tell them all their hearts to each other… and yet still go to bed tonight in each other’s arms and hope for another day. We all sit there, scared of death and yet can hear it knocking loudly despite the televised baseball game’s pithy attempts in trying to drown it out….