Cancer and death are two topics that have been on my mind prominently recently. Starting last week with the weekly episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which brought to mind both my deceased parents, continuing to a realization–and vocalization (to my wife in person, and on my blog on Mother’s Day for a short period of time before I deleted for the time being)–of the true theme of my game in progress, to Mother’s Day and lastly to the events of last night and today for someone whom I only know via online circles, but whose story I’ve been following for a year or so. To say that my thoughts have been on the heavy side would be a gross understatement.
This is going to get long and a bit emotional, in case you don’t feel like reading any further…
I posted yesterday about Steve Nibbelink and his wife Virginia. Last week she OD on her pain meds as her liver started to fail. From there it was a rapid cascade reaction which culminated with her dying last night around 1:20 AM Iowa time. Steve had been sending updates via his blog and Twitter over a year at least, which is when I first learned of their situation, right when I was in Puerto Rico dealing with my Mom’s own fight with cancer. As I read Steve’s descriptions of his wife’s symptoms I could more or less tell where she was in her final moments, based on all the information I learned last year. The moment he mentioned her breathing become raspy and shallow and coming every 6-8 seconds, I knew she didn’t have much longer. For Mom it was only about 2-3 hours from that point; for Virginia, it turned out, it was about the same.
I was up last night way later than I should have. I was checking the Solidarity Fund I created on ChipIn, making sure I spread the word about the Nibbelink’s situation to see if others could help them out in this moment of distress. I was checking to see if Steve would post updates–and he did, which only prompted me to keep checking. I was, in all honesty, reliving moments from my own ordeal last year. I needed to tear myself away. I needed to go to sleep and remember that this was not my family, this was not my Mom dying, this wasn’t me waiting for the final breath. But I couldn’t. Eventually around 1:30 AM EST I forced myself to turn off the computer. It was an hour later that Virginia Nibbelink died.
I don’t mean to abduct Steve’s moment of pain here, but the simple truth is that his loss reminded me of my loss, and I’m trying to deal with that.
I do it by writing, by thinking, by designing a game that’s about vampires where vampirism is really a metaphor for cancer. Cancer. That which eats you from within.
My therapist asked me suddenly if I thought I’d die from cancer and I told her yes before I realized it. It’s in my subconscious. Lurking. I’ve a nemesis, it seems. Am I to become Batman to hunt down this Joker that killed my mother? I use this language because it comes easy, helps me trivialize it a little, but still carries the full weight of the implication.
I miss my parents, both of them.
I’m working on letting go of the pain and loss I feel inside. On reminding myself that not aching does not mean not missing/loving them, it just means being able to live. I’m 35, I should be able to do this. I find when it comes to this, I’m 5 all over again. But I’ll get it.
In helping others deal with their loss and grief I find a small glimmer of closure for my own loss and grief. Maybe it’s all now a quest to help others, and by helping others helping myself, until all bits of loss and grief have been nullified. A quest!
The dead have completed their journey here. Us, the living, have to go on till it is our time. Knowing it will be our time one day is not morbid; focusing on that alone is, but knowing it isn’t. It means you know you have time from now till whenever to do stuff. I will do stuff. I will write my game. I will finish my Nursing degree. I will live.