Friday, December 26, 2014

Late Stage

I just want you to know I do not think of myself as a "dying person." You may call it dying, but I call it living -- until I am not. I am an accepting person. Today, I'm alive. Tomorrow, who's to say? I accept that. I accept the unknowing. 

Yes, it's unfair that I have a stage IV cancer and am not yet 50. Yes, there are sighs of sadness (cf., Joni Mitchell, "River"), contractions of grief, glints of anger. But my life has been rich in experience, not to mention protected from war, violence, famine, natural disaster, preventable disease. I have love, children, family, friends, community, freedom, security. All in a general context of blessings. 

I try hard every day to accept things as they are. Sometimes I'm extra tired, or have to acknowledge another limit, or trip over the fact that this is actually happening. Yet, as my daughter floated across the stage as a party child ballerina in the Nutracker, I was able to enjoy it with pure delight. I smiled when my son proudly helped make the sets and played Rudolph in the neighborhood play. Hardly a drop of maudlin then, or during the other rituals of Christmas. Best of all, my muse seems to be coming out of hibernation, or at least poking her head out. One night recently as I was lying awake, a practically whole poem came into my head, like a moonlit pearl. I'll share it with you now:

Late Stage
It's as if, each morning
the makeup artist comes
to render me a little
older, tireder, sicker
a line, a shadow, a waxy contour
in a cool palette
of bruise and moon
"What scene is this?
Where is the script?
What role do I have?
And how -- how should I
play it?
Someone! Whisper the cues…"
I may remove this mask
I may push against the pallor
with a steaming hot cloth,
or a walk in the brisk air
but it settles once again.
It's as if, each morning…
Rehearse, rehearse
one more rotation
around the axis
one more clatter of blades
around the frozen pond.
Day with its peopled rhythms,
night with its endless pockets
and muffled train song
Three sharp knocks
on the dressing room door
I rise from the chair at the mirror.
Tongue over teeth,
breathe in -- breathe out
I go on
-Elizabeth B. Randolph

So, do what you must for your own journey but please, do not despair over mine. Do not fuss over my itinerary or my seating arrangments. Just be with me, wherever I am.