You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
- Kahil Gibran, The Prophet
My father has stomach cancer. We got the devastating news in December 2005 and the prognosis was six months, but I'd watched him losing weight and the light going out of his eyes and I knew we'd be lucky to have him for six more weeks.
The NHS suddenly started treating him (and us) like we were royalty. He was assigned a special nurse and she gave us a bleeper number and a direct line to her department. The doctor said that if he wasn't well enough to visit the clinic for his appointments, Helga the personal nurse would come to their home.
So far we couldn't have asked for better treatment if we'd been paying private.
At the CT scan a few weeks ago on his stomach, a 'shadow' was found on his liver. They didn't say the cancer had spread — they didn't have to, to me. They ordered an ultrasound scan on his liver, which we'll get the results of this Tuesday.
My parents are in denial. They think he'll 'get over it' — Mum says he's survived worse, and Dad says he'll 'fight the b*****d' all the way. He won't accept that his food has got to be pureed ('I'm not eating baby mush!') so he tries to eat small portions of normal food, then vomits. The only things he can keep down are his well-soaked cornflakes, porridge, soup and creamed rice pudding. He dislikes custard and sauces and (boiled) rice.
Chemo and surgery have been ruled out in Dad's case because of his age — he's 87.
I'm spending as much time with him as I can, trying to interest him in the new edited entries which he used to enjoy reading, but I'm getting the impression he's losing interest. I told him about the front page last weekend being three war-themed ones (something he would have jumped at) but I don't think he's read them. He's not posted and he usually does at the entries he reads.
I'm trying to help him cope with impending death by telling him not to be afraid and that it'll be a release from his pain, but I don't know how to cope myself. How do I learn to live without this man, this rock who is the foundation of my world? The giant who taught the baby, the toddler, the girl, the woman, all she knows? (Except of course, how to live without him.) The kind man whose wisdom will be lost to the world, all that will be left is his memory and his descendants, I thank God he knew his great-grandson and visa versa.