(Bob Dylan/Dave Matthews Band reference)
A friend, an elderly gentleman (he might dispute that description, not the elderly thing, but the gentleman thing), talked to me today and said that he was done. He has survived cancer. He is cancer-free, in fact.
He has clogged arteries, he says. The doctors want to fix it for him, which means that it is doable. But he is saying no.
I try to imagine making that decision and cannot.
I have a personal rule, based on watching my mom go through the tough stuff, along with the things I went through, and then watching my father in law, most recently, reach the end. I am not going to tell people what to do at the end of their lives. I am not going to plead with people (after a certain point, of course) to stay alive when the pain and the bad outweigh whatever good there might be from hanging around.
I do not say that lightly, even if it sounds so.
I do say it sadly.
And I disagree with my friend.
I think that he is suffering from depression, and when I mentioned that possibility, he agreed. That is not the sort of mental state in which you want to make momentous decisions, life and death decisions. If you ask me. And he didn’t.
I wish that we had the opportunity to talk for a longer period of time, although I am not sure it would have done much good. He is as hard-headed as I am, and he is a few years older, to boot, so he thinks he knows everything. Maybe he does.
But I wish we had talked for a longer time. I wanted to remind him about sunrises and sunsets, even in the frozen north. I wanted to remind him about sunrises and sunsets and how each is different than the one before, how each is worth being there for.
I wanted to remind him about waking up, and how great that feels, how we joke about it, those of us who have wondered if we would wake up again, and how it is really a special thing that we take for granted, most of us, this waking up, this being alive, this being alive to experience another day.
I wanted to talk to him some more about fishing, about the thrill of feeling that tug on the end of the line, even, if you are lucky enough to get out there, the spooling off of line as a king mackerel or a huge tuna takes your bait away. I wanted, even to talk about the other, the simple parts of fishing, the beer in the cooler, the summer sun reddening your neck, the quiet, the ripples, the quiet.
I wanted to say to him, hey, buddy, you have been through the worst you will experience, and this next thing, the thing you are refusing, is nothing by comparison. I think I did say that to him, to be honest. He was not listening.
I understand the refusal. I do. When my mom finally decided she had had enough, I think all of us were accepting of that. You can only do so much. When it gets into your brain, maybe it is time to put the brakes on. Maybe not…I know people in here who did not let that be the end game. They fought even that, and still do.
The point is, though, there comes a point when you are bone-weary and brain-tired. You feel you have had enough.
I say that is when the tough get going. All of us can handle the easy stuff. Who can handle the tough stuff? That is my thought. Especially regarding my dear friend, a guy I think is really rock solid and tough as nails. I am surprised that he wants to cave now.
I am disappointed.
He is lonely, to be sure. His kids are not living up to his expectations, whatever they are, and I understand that.
But I do not believe he realizes the value of life. I do not believe he realizes the value of his life. I do not believe he understands how he fills a need, not just for his family and his friends up there in Frozen Land, but in this place. I do not believe he appreciates that his life is a token of hope for people in this joint. I do not think he is thinking beyond himself, frankly, to what the community, his local community, and this community, needs.
Depression is a debilitating thing, without doubt. It is a crying shame that his own children, grown men now, do not recognize the problem and work to help him with it. It is equally troubling that he, a smart guy who does recognize the problem, isn’t also smart enough to seek help.
That, I know, is the nature of that particular beast.
It is a shame, frankly, and I say this time and again, that cancer has spread its wings and flown beyond the province it belongs to. Cancer has gone way past the things it is going to take, and it is taking more from this man, perhaps even his life.
I really do not like to see that happen. I absolutely rejoice in hearing of friends who are camping, who are hiking, who are boating, who are tanning, who are LIVING. Who are not letting the cancer take more than its minimum. That is where we all need to be, keeping cancer from taking more than it has already taken.
And when a good friend says he will not have surgery, relatively safe surgery, to correct a heart problem because he is “over it”, I say that cancer has won again, and has moved into new areas, at least in his life.
I am disappointed whenever cancer gets an easy win like this, one it has not earned, one it does not deserve.
I am disappointed when cancer gets a win like this.