Sunday, April 13, 2014

Guided by a beating heart....

I have lost people I loved throughout my life….people who have died of old age, people who have died after long illnesses and some people who have died much, much too young. But I’ve never been present when someone I loved has died. And I’ve certainly never been present when someone I loved dearly was dying of cancer.


I’ve heard stories from people who have. I’ve read written pieces from loved ones left behind. I don’t know what it’s like, but I can imagine. I imagine that once the person is gone, really gone, it feels like a cord has been suddenly severed. When someone has a deep connection to another person and that connection is suddenly cut off, it has to be intensely painful, like a part of them is forever missing.


My friend lost someone she loves to cancer last week—someone very young. And she was there when it happened. This is not the kind of woman who approaches her life in a practical way (a quality I truly admire). This is someone free-spirited enough to take off to Nicaragua for a week when life gets too real...to quit jobs with asshole bosses on a whim and buy a one way ticket to Tokyo… and to live in Australia and Tasmania for a bit, you know, just because. I don't know how such a free spirit will even begin to process her grief.


I didn’t know her love well enough to say that I’ll be able to miss him, but I’ll miss his presence in my friend’s life terribly. I’ll miss the love they had. There never was and never will be a love like theirs. It was unique, strange, beautiful, unconventional and amazing. Over the years I watched her fall into it, run from it, embrace it, learn from it, run from it again and finally accept it. I’m glad the love existed in the first place, but knowing that their story has reached its end kills me. That’s the part of young death that is so sad—not knowing what might have been.


A few days after it happened, I heard my baby’s heart beating for the first time. One minute I was kicked back on the stirrup-laden table, chatting comfortably with my doc, and the next minute I was unexpectedly bawling my eyes out. I spend every day wondering how things are going down there in my uterus, and to hear confirmation that I have indeed managed to keep that little heart beating was reassuring, to say the least. It was so powerful and so strong. I spent the rest of the day on an emotional high, wanting to hug everyone I saw as if I had just taken six hits of Ecstasy (which would admittedly not be good parenting).


Hearing that heartbeat so soon after that other heart stopped beating got me thinking a lot about life and death and what I believe. And I realize there’s so much I don’t know, and so much that’s possible. I absolutely don’t believe life begins at conception, and I absolutely don’t believe that it ends with the physical death. Plenty of people can and do argue those beliefs with me until they’re blue in the face, but those are two things I believe to my core.


I don’t know when it begins, when it ends or what happens when our hearts stop beating. I’m growing comfortable with the not knowing. Because I think what matters is what we do with the time we’re given. The man my friend loved lived more in his 28 years than many people will in 80. He touched so many lives, and he’ll never be forgotten. The little human growing inside of me has already changed Mr. W and me in a few short months in ways that are so profound, we’ll never be the same no matter what happens from this moment on.


I know people who are just coasting through life, trying to leave as little wake as possible until they die. And in some ways I think that’s more tragic than dying young. Dying isn’t the worst part of life—giving up while you’re still here is. It doesn’t matter what you want to do while you’re here, whether you want to have a prestigious career or work part-time at a grocery store to pay your bills while you pursue your non-paying passion or travel the world or drink a beer in every state or read every book that has ever been written. What matters is that you know you are worth pursuing the life you want, no matter what anyone tells you.


I hope the tiny heart that is beating inside me grows big and strong and continues to beat for the next 120 years. But my job will be to teach my little one that whatever he or she chooses to pursue during that time spent between the first heartbeat and the last, that he/she is worth it.

You’re worth it, too.


Enjoy your next adventure, Jordan. RIP.

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