Wednesday, July 30, 2008

His last, but not mine

kw: musings, poems, mortality

In the wake of Randy Pausch's passing last Friday, I watched "The Last Lecture". I didn't get the chance to see it all when it first came out a few months ago. There is no way to do justice to such a monumental, wise accomplishment. I've been a few of the internal places Randy has been, because of my own cancer and chemotherapy. He didn't beat the odds. I did.

While on chemotherapy, I had stamina enough to join a group on a short canoe ride. I wound up saving someone's life, someone who remains a good friend to this day. I've done a few other things I might not have done had I not been faced with my mortality: taken piano lessons, talked a music school director into hiring me to teach guitar, and making a few more mobiles. But in memory of Randy, all I can really accomplish is to offer this poem I wrote as I was completing my chemotherapy, knowing at the time that I had slightly better than 50:50 odds of one more year...but I expected to beat those odds. This poem is copyrighted in 2001, under my real name (Google knows who Polymath07 is):

©Polymath07, 2001

Let me tell you what it’s like
When the nurse has put a spike
   Into your arm, and poison drips into your vein.
You may contemplate your fate,
Though it’s getting rather late
   To be preparing for what cannot come again.

Oh, you never can prepare
For the sudden, chilling scare
   When the doctor sighs, with sorrow on his brow:
For you knew it all along,
But you hoped that you were wrong—
   For when he says the words, “It’s cancer,” you think, “How?”

In the middle of the night
I awakened in a fright,
   And then I realized, the surgeon’s done with me.
That mechanic spent his day
Digging deep, to take away
   What once was “me”, but now became my enemy.

I can scarce recall the days—
For I spent them in a haze—
   The fight to overcome the pain and lassitude.
And the nurses were so kind
That I really didn’t mind
   It when they made me stand and walk, and eat my food.

Now, this poison is my friend,
And this ordeal soon will end;
   Soon another stage of living can begin.
Having faced my own demise,
Fear is gone, and I arise
   To live this new life that’s returned to me again.

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