By Michellanne Bradley
We are of a nature to die.
I have done “A Year to Live” practice, but I still do not know how I would present with a terminal diagnosis. If I had the time to prepare to die, what that would look like?
I have a close friend and colleague whom I have known for almost 15 years; we have worked together and our worlds have woven together. I sat with his brother and his sister in law when his brother was dying of multiple myeloma. The irony was that he and I were working for a company for which the primary investigative product was treatment for multiple myeloma.
Work and life take a different perspective from that view point. Professional is personal.
He came to dinner and parties when I lived on an avocado farm, back when we worked outside of Los Angeles when we first met—he as a consultant, me as a business systems analyst. We worked together again in San Diego, with him reporting to me on a database installation. Our last time at the same company came in San Francisco. The funniest part was when I flew up for the position in San Francisco, I was sitting in the reception area of the company, waiting to be called for the interview, and in he walked, for his first day as a consultant. It was a great omen.
We used to have dinner at least twice a week when we were working in San Francisco. We explored the city together, and rode bikes a lot, including over the Golden Gate Bridge. Our work lives grew together and our friendship was, and still is, strong. He has been consulting here in San Diego for the past two years.
We had dinner two weeks ago Tuesday, then lunch on Sunday. We made plans to have dinner on Saturday with another friend we know in town. I called on Friday from the floor of the vet’s office when I had a minute. I figured I would call my friend, arrange for dinner, and could check that off my daily list. Instead he said, “I can’t go to dinner tomorrow; I’m in the hospital with an inoperable brain tumor.”
That was when everything changed. Now that floor of the office at the vet with the dogs has a whole greater imprint in my life.
When we went to lunch the Sunday before, and I had asked why he didn’t retire. He said that he does every few years. He retires and goes home for a few months, and he gets bored. He needs the mental stimulation. And after a few months, he starts to get on his wife’s nerves. I understand all of those sentiments.
We have talked a lot about beliefs and religion. He was raised in a Christian denomination. His spirituality soars while spending time in nature. We used to ride bikes a lot in San Francisco and he would tell me about riding horses in Washington state, where he lived.
He has been in the hospital near me for the past few days. The scans, tumor grading, typing and the biopsy are arduous at best, and I see the deterioration of my friend before my eyes. I have a photo that I snapped of him at that lunch, now a week and a half ago, and he is not the same person.
He is upbeat. His family in SoCal visits, but he mostly wants to get home to his wife and his dogs. He hates the hospital. He has high praises for the staff. His wit and will are sharp and strong. He told me that his favorite birthday was his last, when he turned 75 and his wife threw him a big party. I give him a bit of a jab and remind him that I took him to dinner in San Francisco for his 70th birthday.
We laugh a lot.
He is one of the smartest people I know, with a kind and gentle nature. He teaches me how to be a better human. I love his wife. I love their relationship. There is a tenderness in the way he talks about her, and the way that he talks to her. They talk at the same time every night when he travels for work, and he goes home every other weekend or so. They have been this way the whole time I have known him. He told me that he plans to beat this and live for at least another four years. His original plan had been to make it to 105, because his grandfather died at 104.
Sitting with someone with whom there is great influence and many threads woven together is really difficult when they are facing the end of their life.
I do it because I hope that someone will be there to sit with me at the end of mine. My mom chides me about being a bother, and says that maybe he doesn’t want company all of the time. I replied that if he wants me to not be there, he will tell me. That if I am in the same situation, I want all of the people all of the time, as this could be the last, so I want to say goodbye.
We are of a nature to grow old.
We are of a nature to die. May we meet this with grace and dignity. May we remember to love those around us. We are all doing the best that we can.
*Post Note: I wrote this months ago, when he was first diagnosed. He was given 6-9 months to live. He made it two. I love him forever.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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