Sunday, March 16, 2014

One Baby Step

It seems like as you get older, you become more accepting of death. Maybe it's because you've seen many people you love die, and you have no choice but to accept your fate. It could be that your faith gives you hope, and you're anxious to be reunited with those you love. Possibly it's due the the satisfaction you feel from your own life and your many happy and fulfilling experiences. Whatever it is, death is easier to face when it is expected or just makes sense.

I recently read the book, "My Sister's Keeper." This was a very popular book and movie, but I had never read it before Carlos picked it up for me at a second hand store. The story follows the experience of two sisters: Kate, who has a rare form of pediatric cancer, and her sister Anna, her perfect donor match. There is a scene in the story when the mother and Kate are together in Kate's hospital room. Kate has had a turn for the worse and they're all preparing themselves for what might be goodbye. There is a moment of silence, and Kate says, "I had a good one." Sara, her mom, replies, "The absolute best." They are, of course, referring to Kate's life. They're referring to the 16 years that she's gotten to live and love, the context reminding us that these were also 16 years that she's suffered tremendously and had to fight everyday. 

This exchange and these words hit me in a very raw place. Kate has made peace with her illness, she's grateful for all she's had, and appreciates that they've done all they can do. 

The belief surrounding suicide is that it is a highly preventable cause of death. The general assumption is that if only people would reach out in their moments of great despair, they wouldn't act on the impulse to end their pain. As much as I've told myself that David's death was the result of an illness, it's still very difficult to live with regret and the many what-ifs. This exchange in this book, and this acceptance of illness and death, opened a new door for me. It brought me some new "what-ifs." 

For example, I wonder if David came to peace with his illness. Maybe he thought it was his time to go. He had battled the illness, and lived with the pain. Maybe he had enough, just as cancer patients choose to stop receiving treatment, David chose to stop fighting. Maybe he was happy and content with his life, he had such a great life, maybe he felt his mission was complete. 

A warning sign of suicide is a transformation in mood: a sense of peace, calm, or even a happiness. What if this transformation in mood is the same sort of acceptance that Kate had in this book. A peace with what's to come, and a happiness that the pain is going to end. When the fear of living overshadow's ones fear of death, maybe that's when they know. When life has lost its appeal, and death brings hope, maybe that's the sign. 

I don't know what these new questions mean for me regarding my beliefs about suicide. They don't make me miss David any less, but they do bring me a little comfort in thinking that maybe it was his time to go. I don't see a difference between a cancer patient stopping treatment and David choosing not to fight anymore, and maybe that's all this does for me. 

I would do anything to have healthy David back in my life. I would love to talk with him and laugh. The difference is that I know I will never understand his pain and I wouldn't wish one more day of his suffering, for my happiness. 

Maybe this is a step toward making peace. Maybe it is a small baby step toward finding some understanding. We will never understand why children get cancer, just as we will never understand why people must suffer through depression, anxiety, or other mental anguishes. I guess the only thing we can do, is find our own peace, truth, and source of hope. 

As always, I am sending my brother David all my love tonight.

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