Like the mythical grim reaper, I’m surrounded by death. I write about the passing of other people’s loved ones, in usually tragic ways, every day in my professional life. I do it coldly, in the detached way that a mathematician or a scientist tries to solve a proof or theory. I’d like to say it’s because that’s what required of me as a journalist. However, the truth is my icy demeanor is a necessity to survive a twenty year career as a journalist, seeing, reading, and writing about horrors across the globe.
Yet, I always know that my humanity is intact when the end comes for someone I know, even in a fleeting way, because the gut wrenching sorrow that grips me is palatable. I’m at loss for words to express the pain I feel over the absence of people who’ve touched my life.
I barely blink when I see the words obit in the header of an Associated Press wire story. But, my hand trembled when I saw the notice from Caring Bridge about a HS friend. I’d only really know him for one or two years. However, after reconnecting on Facebook, I got a small foothold back in his life a half a decade ago. I had no way to know he, like me, was chronically ill. He was battling a brain tumor. I was struggling to control a rare autoimmune disease. Over the years we were reacquainted, I survived three lymph node biopsies, two other surgeries and drugs to shrink a pituitary gland tumor. I thought I was the unlucky one. Yet, I’m still here. He lost his fight; the brain tumor ripped him from the lives of his children, friends and close acquaintances like me.
His loss made me wonder if, when death comes from me, I’d prefer to go slowly or fast. Slowly, I get to tie up loose ends, complete things in my life and say goodbye to my loved ones. Fast, the way that he went, the suffering is over quickly for you and those who loved you. Either way you look at it though you’re gone and that hurts like hell to anyone left behind.
Fast or slow, I suppose death always comes too soon for those who have truly made a positive difference in the world. One of the best things that can be said is the impression one makes lives on, making their memory immortal, and touching the lives of future generations through stories and tributes; at least I hope for my friend’s sake and my own that it’s true.
Author the Author:
Nika C. Beamon is the author of the medical memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House. In 2009, she published the non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married (Chicago Review Press). She’s also the author of two mystery novels.
#DyingWithDignity #ChronicIllness #Misdiagnosed