Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Old broken tools

I had a dream a few weeks ago. People were chasing me, over hills and around trees, through gullies and up the rock face of a precipice. I knew they wanted to hurt me, take something important. Something very important, like maybe a kidney.

More than once, just when I thought things looked hopeless, to my great relief I found a weapon. Each time I used my weapon to beat back my attackers, but it never turned out to be quite the tool I needed to finish the job. The shovel I found had a loose handle, and the baseball bat turned out to be a hollow, lightweight stick. Escape was always temporary, and my weapons were never sufficient for the task.

I woke up exhausted, but with my kidneys intact.

Later that day, a friend asked why I looked so tired, and I told her about my dream. “Maybe it means something,” I said, “but I don’t know what.”

We were waiting outside the elementary school gym for our five-year-old boys to finish karate class.

She looked at me. “Are you kidding me? That dream is your life.”

Ah. The clarity of an outside perspective.

Over the last two weeks, I've come to see Mat's chemotherapy as the weapons in my dream. Mat has already decided that the treatment he's on now is likely to be his last, and my dream is helping me to accept his decision. The drugs are old, broken tools. They may buy a little time, but the end result is inevitable, and the battle is exhausting. And sometimes the fighting doesn’t even make the battle last longer, it just makes it more tiring.

Putting the weapons down is frightening. They feel like the last barrier between here and that grassy cemetery. It helps to see them for what they are, though, and I don't want to be the person who presses unwanted treatment on someone else because she’s not ready to face the enormity of her loss.

Is it possible to be ready? In my academic head I think it is. In my actual head I think it's time to get out of the boat and take a step onto the water.