I have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. As Hemosapien told me over four years ago, I will die from it, or from a complication from it, or with it . . . one of the three. But, through treatment, I have been given time for which I am extremely thankful. Glioblastoma is not like that. It is a primary cancer of the brain, the most prevalent kind. You can read about it here. It doesn’t fool around and frequently, depending on the location of the tumor inside the brain, steals the identity of its victim before it steals their life. There are treatments for it, but it is almost invariably a fatal cancer.
I had the pleasure of spending nine wonderful days in a magic place getting to know Sue. She is a great fiddler, quick to laugh, and a joyous presence. We enjoyed music in a beautiful surrounding, met many new friends, renewed old acquaintances, and enjoyed our mutual gifts of music in a way that only musicians can share, learning to read those unspoken signals musicians send to each other, taking cues, letting the music swell and ebb like waves building and crashing on a beach, while in between crashes making those gentle, soothing sounds as the water assumes the shape of its vessel, seeking to level itself. Our very lives are like water. Our very lives are like music. Our very lives are like music writ upon the water’s surface: fragile, fleeting, ephemeral.
Sue is a veteran, journeyman, and skilled musician. She is also loved, admired, and respected by her many life-long and new friends. She is also in hospice care due to a recently discovered Stage IV Glioblastoma.
The unique essence that will be gone with her will be missed by many, many people. She will leave behind memories of wonderful music that will survive her passing, lingering long after she is gone. Like artifacts being studied by anthropologists in some far and distant time in the future, she will have left a legacy of music in her wake that will be studied, and even better, enjoyed by future generations of musicians and music lovers. Through recorded artifacts, unavailable and unimaginable not so very long ago, I will enjoy some of the music we shared together, today.
Artifacts and memories are always our legacy to the earth. They are the only things we leave behind that last. The artifacts rust and decay, and the memories eventually fade, but the memories are likely to be those things which influenced another person, thus our influence can be passed down through many generations. In the meantime, though, we are filled with the reality of our own loss and overcome with our own sadness, all while looking through what seems to be a clouded glass into someone else’s life, but in reality, poignantly seeing our own reflection. Those who share her heart will have voids left that simply cannot be filled; it is those voids that will be most prominent in the faint, ghostly reflections seen in the clouded glass.
We must cherish our time here. It is the only thing we really, truly possess in this life. Everything else is just an illusion. Godspeed to Sue. She has already started this difficult journey that we all must make, but it’s the same one we all surely started on from the moment of our birth.
An intellectual knowledge of this makes it no easier for anyone, and words seem so recklessly futile in the face of eternity. We are thankful for our friends and for those who have loved us. We are thankful for all those who touched us along the way. We depart knowing that there are those who have been touched by us, and whose lives will be less full because of our absence, and those who will be prompted to think of us and then smile when music springs forth from the air. We will be the ones to smile, now, even in the midst of grief: the music having touched us. Others will smile later. Left to our own thoughts, the smile will fade, but will never completely go away, because we have been moved from our former place, to another one, a better one . . . a place we made for ourselves by the influence, touch, and joy of having known and loved each other.
It is our legacy to each other.
From John Donne’s MEDITATION XVII
No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee