I’ve never before witnessed personally, the true, devastating, bull dozing effect of cancer. I’ve seen the adverts, put my pennies in little yellow or green boxes beside the cashiers, I’ve probably given some money here and there to people running a marathon or abseiling down a building in aid of a late loved one, but it’s never been something that’s happened to someone I’ve met and least of all known their story. They say it kills 1 in 3 and yet I’ve never really even understood the term, to me, it’s this horrible thing that happens to some people and they die, and others don’t. They say if you don’t smoke or eat bacon, you might not get it, but really, that’s just vacant, often redundant advice, it appears pretty evident that no one has a say in the cruel monopoly of cancer, and of course this applies to any sudden, uncontrollable and seemingly unstoppable illness. They strike the young and old, the weak and the able, the tall and short, the white and black, no one is really, truly immune to them. At least that’s what I’ve come to realise today.
I know I said there are no words, and I know that really, there aren’t. Words, whilst wonderful in their ability to enable us to understand, theorise or make sense of situations, unfortunately don’t offer us the luxury of healing. There is nothing now, and more than likely nothing ever, that will take away the pain, anger, devastation, regret, fury and unjustness of this situation. There’s nothing anyone can say or do that can reverse what’s happened, or make life the same again, there’s no power on this earth that can offer comfort or even reason at this time, and so maybe it’s better just to offers words of solidarity.
I can’t remember where I read it, maybe I made it up or a friend said it in a blaze manner some years ago, but it’s something that’s stuck with me through every up and down I’ve ever had. It’s maybe not the most comforting offering, but it’s the one I’ve found to be of most stability when trying to justify continuing with life when going through a hard time: The worst thing about heartbreak is that you have to go on. There are no ifs, buts or maybes; day will keep turning to night, and winter will turn to spring and everything will keep going. You will wake up everyday, and whether you wish it or not, your brain will keep working and your mind will keep thinking. Whilst, initially, grieving and the intoxicating emptiness, comfort even, that comes with that deep grief, are the only emotions available to you, both mentally and physically, eventually even you will tire of the darkness. It may take month or years, decades even, but one day you’ll taste something delicious, feel the first warm heat of the summer or hear a bird singing outside and realise that, for the first time in a long time you’ve forgotten to be sad. The darkness and sadness will return, no doubt, and you’ll soon forget that momentary sense of pleasure, relief even, but slowly it’ll become a more common occurrence, this, forgetting to be sad. It may seem unfathomable, impossible even, to think now of a time when this could be true reality, but it will come. The grief will subside into memory and gratitude. Gratitude that you are even able to access the memories. To remember the laughter and the joy and the experiences lived in that time. And whilst no, words can’t bring them back, or offer anything of worth at this dark time, perhaps they can offer solidarity and a sense of comfort in the fact that one day, words will be a way to keep them alive; stories, adventures, memories and shared experiences are going to be your vehicle to maintaining their presence on earth. So whilst now, and for however long it may take for the darkness to lift, there are no words. I promise that one day, there won’t be enough, there won’t be enough words in any language under the sun, to describe the light and joy that they had to offer. One day, years from now, when you meet someone new and they ask how they are, the pain of their passing will twinge in you, as it always will, but it will be words of gratitude, humbleness and gratefulness that you can keep their memory alive that will consume you, and not the all consuming grief of today.
I suspect that these words will mean nothing now in the darkness of this devastating tragedy, and I am sure that time will not currently make sense, but know that with everyday, you will keep going. You will wake up each morning, and settle every evening, know that you will continue to experience life and everything that comes with it. Know that you will love life once again, as much as you loved it before this day.