Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Note: As background, this piece was written in response to directly observing an introductory "chemo class" for patients at a major cancer clinic.

I was in a room today with people whose nightmares had all come true. The haunted looks on their faces reminded me of the faces of the prisoners in photographs of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The faces in the room were colorless, grainy, still and timeless--the faces of humans slouching to their bitter ends. Faces as passive as the wildebeest brought down by the cheetah--all struggle gone and resigned to being dinner...

These people were haunted by the ghosts of their former selves--ghosts that once had dreams, but the dreaming ghosts were now hidden behind dead eyes and bottled up behind lips that dared not speak in bodies tense with future pain.

All the family and friends in the world and all the material goodies on earth were beyond them now as they no longer lived in the land of those careless "immortals" who live their lives as if there would be no end. The people in the room had suddenly become mortal and could not go back to their fantasy lives of vanity, status and careless fun. The people in the room had no idea how to live life as mortal beings. It was all too new. Mortality had been roughly shoved in their gray faces by the uncaring clown of the universe--and painfully ground in like a cream pie full of broken glass and hot coals.

They had not yet realized that this--this--is what it is like to grow up. Bloodied and battered--pushed to the limit-- these poor faces did not imagine that they were being given the opportunity to finally be human--to not be judged or to judge themselves by their accomplishments or material wealth by arriving at a place beyond judgement where the core of their humanity resides.  They were being given the opportunity to teach the "immortals" still living in the fantasy world what it really means to be a man or a woman. Not by becoming some vision of perfection or bravery--not in the guise of a noble suffering saint, but by becoming a mortal human, stripped of all the trappings and vanities--naked in an uncaring universe and still able to create meaning, still able to give and still able to love...