Eulogy for Fred
I had a great love. I have had a great loss. Fred taught me many things. He taught me how to feel, how to trust and how to believe in love again. His cancer allowed me to find unknown strengths and courage. My courage was found in letting go of fear and doing whatever was required to support his healing and in watching Fred's courage and transformation in the face of his illness. Fred's cancer took him on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth. I, and many of his friends and family accompanied him on that journey and no one was untouched.
Fred was a prolific writer and poet. I would like to give voice to Fred by sharing some of his journal entries after he was diagnosed with cancer. He began a new journal when he was diagnosed and written on the first page was - I CHOOSE LIFE.
The past is gone leaving me in the present with its gift/expression. It is the present which is my concern for now. My life will not be the same by my deliberate choice. Regardless of my situation/condition, I will no longer avoid choice/delay. Years while certainly not wasted have just as certainly not been fully lived.
There is so much to note: The constancy of Diane, the wonderfulness of taste returning, the lessening discomfort, the weakness of the body and the ability to move beyond. An expanding awareness of who I am and the power that I have.
What does it mean to live each day fully? How do I do it? Does it relate to living deliberately? I sense that at least part of this is to live in a loving attitude - this I am working on.
I am buffeted by stories of cures, remissions, etc. When this happens to me I find constancy in the notion that I am the element which will make the difference; for I know now, that I can do this thing. I may not succeed, but I can do this thing.
It is so terribly lonely to be faced with the possibility of dying - it cannot be communicated even poorly. It is something which we all face and must accomplish individually.
I have however accepted the notion that the rest of my life will be the fight against this disease - that my life has been and will continue to be changing to further this fight.
It's late but I want to say just a little more, I am happier at a different level than I have ever been. I am more connected to life, eager to learn and open to the spiritual fullness of life. The gifts of this disease are closely tied to the irony of it all.
The irony is not lost to me. The attributes which I valued highly in myself, are exactly those which are being compromised; making the accommodation very difficult. How can I find peace with changes which strike close to my center? On the other hand - if the changes where insignificant - to accomplish them would be meaningless and the journey I am on is about meaning. It would presumptuous to believe that I have come anywhere close to completing my journey but I am sensing in this a purpose which was not evident to me before now. Is it that I am being lead to prepare and develop within me the power and resources to help myself or others?
This has been the hardest year of my life - or at least it seems that way now. While it has been hard it also is the year I have had to change the most, learn the most and reflect the most. It is impossible for me to imagine myself not going through this. I am slowly coming to know myself and be comfortable with the changes I am going through.
I have come a very long way. My mind & spirit have never felt so strong. I can do things with my mind which I had no idea could be done. My self-image is as strong as my mind. The power to & capability to do what I want is within my reach.
I cannot remember a season when I have felt so good about things. I am much more open to the world a - a true change for me. It is wonderful, surprising and exciting for me to discover the world is so alive. I still find it outrageous that I had to go through so much to find these basic things out. Life is for the enjoying.
Doug says that I have reclaimed my life and my happiness. I say that I am in the process of doing just that. Part of this process of reclamation involves other people for there is no way I can see to do it alone. The support of friends and family, the tender strength and love of Diane, the energy of my kids. All of these have truly worked a miracle on my mind and soul. Perhaps this is a 'mispeak' for the miracle has been the reclaiming of my soul.
I am ready, if not fully equipped for this task. However many of the pieces I need are present in their embryonic stages & have not been fully tested. My cancer has tested much. Courage rises above the rest. It is not the courage to be brave; rather it is the ability to work through fear, to face the unknown, to continue on in the face of overwhelming odds, and pain.
What does it mean to 'choose life'? At the time I felt I knew what it meant - struggling to live, defying death (or at least resisting). Although that choice certainly marks a high point for me, I was immensely naïve and ego centered to think that I ever understood the choice before me. That initial step is merely the gateway to life's menu, for after choosing to live, one then makes the choices (and voices) which define the life. This is the real work of a lifetime. To make choices which reinforce your life, to avoid the mindless following of our own momentum or worse the following of someone else's rhythms.
It has now been over 1 year since my operation. The fullness and complexity of the year past leave me in awe of the resiliency and will power a person can be capable of. In a sense I feel that I am really one year old now. The change of direction precipitated by my cancer has been extreme to the point of rebirth. I could no longer live a life which was not true. Whether it is the food I eat, the thoughts I think, the actions I take or the feelings I have - if they are without truth - my live is unable to support them. While this still a struggle to find that uniformity, I have taken large 1st steps on the journey of a lifetime.
A year ago I was lying in the hospital, weak and stressed, frightened as I say 'near to death' by the specter of cancer hanging over me. I had no idea of the gifts its would bring. I only thought it was as sentence to death. Now I see that it really was an invitation to live - to find the meaning which was eluding me (it still does but I am close on it) - an invitation to drink deeply of the cup of life and to join in life's song. At the same time, I recognize that what is (may be) in store will not be easy, quick or predictable and will in large part depend solely on inner resources. I have reached that place where I alone am responsible for who I am and who I will become.
I have been permitted to learn so much in the last year - to move myself so far and to appreciate how far I will be able to go. I have been given the gift of time - aware time - not brain/soul dead time.
The following is Fred's last journal entry. It was written when we were at the Cancer Hospital in Mexico.
A long road to self-discovery. Many of the aspects of this physical body which I had come to identify with were no longer there to support that identification. My strength was largely gone; the guy who always felt he could do it all for everyone including himself was unable to do many of the simple things of life. The strength which allowed me to suppose that I did not need the help from those around me, left me virtually dependent on their help. The capacity to be competent at whatever I chose disappeared. Even small things I couldn't do well. My mind was unable to focus. However -
When I closed my eyes I was essentially the same w/o any these props. In fact these supposed strengths had kept me isolated from friends and family through pride and arrogance. What a discovery - made on my own - no therapist, no book just my thoughts and spirit working.
Now - while weak and clearly not out of the woods - I find myself almost non-yellow and at least for now feeling strong enough to take up my beloved pen again.
I would like to thank all of our dear friends and family who supported Fred and I during his illness. You are held close to my heart. I look forward to spending more time and sharing more of Fred's voice with you. I was blessed to have Fred in my life, he will always be with me and his love set me free.
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