There was a photographer, H.P. Robinson, who took took a series of shots of a young woman dying and overlaid the negatives to capture those grieving for the girl. He called the image Fading Away.

This image is haunting and familiar because in each expression on the face of the grieving relatives is a feeling capable of stretching through time and space to touch us similarly. We grieve along with the girl’s family.

While visiting a Civil War era graveyard last October (following my diagnosis), the girls stumbled upon two tall white gravestones of twin siblings who died a day apart. We stood there together considering the lives of those lost so long ago, I lost in my own meloncoly and the girls in a semi-morbid curiosity. My oldest asked, pointing to a nearby gravesite with fake flowers standing in a make-shift metal vase, “Does someone love that person?”

I said, “Yes, someone loves that person.”

My child seemed distraught then as she looked down at the children’s graves and asked, “Why doesn’t anyone love the twins? Why don’t they have any flowers?”

And I reached down and hugged my daughter and explained that the children died many, many years ago and they were probably loved very much. “I love them,” she said. “We’ll bring them flowers,” I said.

Flowers are like the many cards we’ve received over the last year. Some line my cupboards along with photos of friends. And I’ve noticed how unique and lovely each one is – obviously selected thoughtfully. None of us will escape death phsyically, but we live on in other ways.

There’s something in this connection we share between us that makes the idea of death seem less permanent. I sat in bed this morning reflecting on death and my worries of death when I was initially diagnosed. I wrote: “The only real difference between a cancer survivor and someone without cancer is the change in our perception of our own mortality. Someone without cancer is equally as susceptible to death, but they are blissfully unaware. And yet, I found great strength in facing death, in reconciling my feelings about living and the thoughts of dying until both were familiar and in this I felt enlightened.”

Four hours later, I learned that a close friend’s mother was killed yesterday morning in a head-on collision. It was a shocking, sickening feeling to register her death. I didn’t know her, but I know her daughter and all who know the family will grieve with them in this time. I hope this brings some sense of comfort – I hope when faced with the unexpected tragedy of death, we might all find comfort in those little things that connect and unite us.

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