“Even death has a heart.”Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Parts of this post are taken from my soon to be published memoir.
A good friend of mine is dying of cancer.
When I first heard that my friend was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer, I was shocked. It had only been a few months after my father had passed away and my emotions were raw and bleeding. I wept for her but kept my grief to myself. It felt too soon, too much.
But it was Stage 2 — I told myself she had time.
After living with the regret of not spending more time with my father before he died three years ago, you would think that this would have made me braver in the face of death.
But it has not.
Recently I learned that my friend’s cancer had returned but this time it was Stage 4. All the rounds of chemo and radiation and drugs extended her life but will not save her. And I am the cowardly friend who has not gone to see her yet.
I could use Covid-19 as an excuse, but the reality is that I am angry. I am angry and I am a coward.
My friend is a beautiful person inside and out. And it seems grossly unfair for her to be battling a terminal disease at the young age of fifty. Of course, I would be angry and upset no matter what her age. But I think that at certain ages, Death must begin to feel more like a friend rather than a hated foe. And my friend has not reached that age yet.
If I am honest, much of my anger is turned inward — towards all the regrets I have around my father’s death, around time I have lost to trauma and depression and pain and all the other excuses I protect myself with — like so much deflated bubble wrap.
But the time for excuses is over. My friend doesn’t have time for them and neither do I. I still feel angry over the coming loss. But I have made peace with the truth of my friend’s diagnosis. And I have made plans to visit her — to give her comfort, but also so that regret will not beat my soul to a pulp once I can no longer hold her beautiful face in my hands and hug her close to my breaking heart.
Regret is a familiar bedfellow of death. In fact, I believe regret is always grief’s bosom companion. We are only human after all. We will always forget something — something we should have said. Something we should have done. Something we should not have said. Places we should have gone. People we should have seen.
Life is messy and busy and crazy. And the older I get, the faster time slips away like sugar through a sifter. In April 2020, after three weeks in lockdown, I vowed I would not end the year without accomplishing something personal for myself. I signed up for an Ancient Chinese history class I had always wanted to take. I signed up for not one, but two language courses. And I told myself, I will not have any regrets come December.
A year and four months later, the history course remains unfinished. My language courses languish on unopened apps and in half empty notebooks. Instead, I watch Chinese and Korean dramas and call it “practicing my languages.” And 2020 passed like so many years prior — when I woke up December 31st, amazed and frustrated that another year had escaped me. And I vowed once again for the next year to be full of finished projects and a life well-lived.
In 2018, I promised my father that I would read my book to him. Days later, he was gone — out of the reach of my words. Now, almost four years later, I finally made the choices that pushed me closer to that goal. I hold my rough draft in my hands – completed in around ninety days. You have no idea how unbelievable this accomplishment is — two fantasy/paranormal novels gather dust on a flash drive in my desk drawer — my characters left languishing mid sentence, mid-fight, mid-climax.
But I have confidence they won’t be frozen in time much longer. My thought is that writing a rough draft is like riding a bike: now that I have done it once, I can do it again. And again. And again.
And once that precious final draft is finished, I will sit at the side of my father’s grave and read it aloud to him, secure in the knowledge that he will hear me and be proud of the author I have become.
And maybe, just maybe, I can absolve myself of this one regret and quit being a coward in the face of Death.
A member of the Water Street Writers, Mikaela D’Eigh is a writer, poet, gardener, mental wellness advocate, and a lover of Scotch, K-Pop, and KDramas. She writes about anything and everything, using all the crayons in the box. Currently, she lives out in the country with two Egyptian gods disguised as cats, a herd of cows, and the occasional flock of wild turkeys.
During the month of April, I’ll be participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge.
My first book, a memoir on grief, will be published Summer 2021. Follow me on the journey to publication!
Image © 2020, MAG