I have a tendency, I fear, to blog only when I'm riled up about something, or upset about something. This probably gives the impression that things are worse than they are, when in fact so much of life simply consists of putting one foot in front of the other and simply doing one's work, with perhaps a little irritation that requires blogging thrown in on the side. But every once in a while, the floor drops out.
I mentioned R a few months ago. Pancreatic cancer is doing what pancreatic cancer does, and today my colleagues and I found out that she's been admitted to hospice. We were asked to write her notes.
I don't want to.
I don't want to say goodbye to a young woman, a bright woman, a marvelous teacher, a tenacious and fierce scholar, a wise and gracious mentor.
I don't want to write a note. Simply saying "thank you" seems totally inadequate, and I can't figure how I could possibly say goodbye.
But not writing a note is a thousand times worse than writing a note. And of course, I see the irrelevancy of saying that I don't want to do it; what I want to do or don't want to do has exactly no bearing on reality. None.
Nine years ago, I lost another mentor, another kind, ferociously intelligent, savvy woman. The world is immeasurably poorer for her loss, and I think of her often. She died in the springtime. I have a vivid memory of walking to the train on my morning commute when she was ill, passing through a grim development of Communist-inspired apartment blocks, thinking in time with every clack of my heels on the sidewalk, "I don't want to. I don't want to." There was an enormous old cherry tree in the middle of the buildings, and its blooms were the most audaciously beautiful thing I had ever seen, this bright splash of life and beauty in the middle of the grimness. I was struck by the sheer nerve of the thing to bloom, to have so much gratuitous beauty, when someone I loved was suffering and dying. But yet there it was, waving branches and spilling blossoms like the living thing it was. When I think of her now, I think of the tree. I didn't want to do any of it--the grief, the loss, the pain, the beauty, the polite conversations at a funeral--but not doing it would have been a worse choice.
And so much of life seems to be doing what we don't want to do.
I'm going to write a note.