As an oncologist, I deal with death on an almost daily basis. The hope – and, in many cases, the reality – is that cancer gets cured and death is pushed back as far as possible, into the distant future. When that isn’t the case, though, part of my job is counseling people on how to handle the reality of death, how to handle life when it is about to come to an end. I work with patients and with their families to get them through that time, with as little suffering as possible. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be there for them, in that time of vulnerability and powerlessness. I can make a difference during that time, and it is humbling to be able to do so.
The thing with cancer is that often, we can predict – to some degree – when death will occur. When death is predictable, there is time for last hugs and kisses, last moments of hand-holding, final goodbyes. And goodbyes are so, so important.
A friend of mine is hurting right now. Jennie is about my age and she lives in New York. She has two young daughters, about the ages of my own children. Her husband died on Sunday, unexpectedly, with no time for goodbyes.
I’ve had a very hard time with this, harder than I expected. I think that many of us in this community – the food blogging community, and yes, the Twitter community – are struggling with grief and sadness for Jennie’s loss. This letter describes so well the feelings that so many of us are experiencing.
I told my husband I loved him yesterday morning when I walked out of the house to head to work. I tell him that every morning, but yesterday was different. I told him emphatically, with emotion, not just because it was habit but because I meant it.
I told him I loved him as if it were the last time he would hear it.