Thoughts of life and death13 May 2020
Piece from my journal that I wrote hastily
This morning I was reading bell hooks / James Baldwin and thought about making the best of one’s life along with my experiences in hospice. It’s a shame that I can’t say names, but you know – healthcare has its rules and whatnot. I’ve had five or so patients, and none of them afflicted me as much as this one did. I’ve thought about what hospice has done for me, and how it’s affected my views on radical acts of kindness along with re-defining what love and vulnerability could do for ourselves. We only get one opportunity at living, and I’d rather spend it being kind and generous as opposed to hateful and self-serving. This is the letter I wish I could write:
We’d ruminate the meaning of life together thinking about love, life, travels, and your career. We’d talk about your experience falling in love, your travels all over the world, and your endlessly fascinating career, building homes, taking photos, designing buildings and creating happiness for other people.
When I spoke to you about queer identity, books, literature, and symbolism - you’d be absolutely enamored. You’d ask millions of questions, digging deeper and deeper into my soul. My favorite moments would be sitting there with my legs crossed, staring out your window, and feeling the warm sun lay herself on my legs. I would gaze around your colorful room and see the dusty books, classical portraits, the bronze statues, and then you, you beautiful, courageous, and smiling bastard, staring right at me. Those were some of the longest silences I’d ever felt. I was afraid that something was wrong, but we’d start the conversation back up as if nothing happened. In those conversations it felt as if we were two dancers suspended in a dimension outside of time, hanging on by the thin threads of our intimate and vulnerable connection to one another, happily spinning around each other conversing about the many multitudes of life.
You were the only one I knew who actually took the pill. You took the leap of faith into the unknown. I remember when you stared at me with your eyes wide and said, “I’ve lived a good life, and I won’t let cancer kick the bucket. If I go, I go on my own terms.” I remember not knowing what to say. I remember feeling guilty about it. I remember wanting to hold you and not letting you go, to squeeze you until we’d finally become one. The truth is, I should’ve just said I was uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say. I mean people don’t take the pill often – to choose to end your own life is an act of defiance. It’s analogous to sticking a middle finger at death and ringing life into your own hands. Looking back I should’ve broken myself up more to allow you to peek into my interior. I should’ve told you how scared I was for you and that even if I like to fantasize about intellectual thoughts, my care for you will trump that. I think about this memory often, not with a feeling of regret, but with a feeling of opportunity. I’ve come to learn that every time I’m uncomfortable, it’s an opportunity for me to break down walls and suspend time again, to allow room for my honest self and for deeper connection.
People say that love is like romance – to which I protest, romance is more like love. Love is overarching and encompasses all of our actions. We demonstrate love every day in small behaviors, eyes curving upwards in laughter, soft smiles in respect to generosity, and embracing empathy in the most frustrating situations. It is in these simple steps that we learn to become more generous, to open up our hearts more, and to accept vulnerability as our first choice. In this piece I’ve presented a different mode of thinking, one in which people lay themselves bare, risking their vulnerabilities, and practicing kindness and generosity towards one another. A mode where we admit our faults and struggles, allowing ourselves to suspend time to allow room for discomfort. I’ve learned that it’s in these uncomfortable moments where we sacrifice our exterior that we learn to embrace the open universe of love.