Conscious Aging: Death of a Friend

By sheerest happenstance I was reading an online end-of-life article by Atul Gawande in the New Yorker when the text arrived: John has passed. I was startled, but only because we always think we’re going to have more time with our friends who are dying. Death should be patient and wait. And because in early June, John was well enough to greet friends at an open house for their new condo out of downtown, one they bought to be nearer to their daughter, her husband, and a new grandson. More recently than that, I had lunch with Julie and their other daughter, here from overseas to spend time with her dad. John was up and dressed and would be caring for the baby, with help from the son also here to spend precious time.

I was startled by the text, and yet John himself joked sometimes that he was well past his expiration date. A little more than four years ago he underwent life-threatening surgery for a particularly brutal and invasive cancer, and he survived. He went back to work, albeit briefly. He traveled. He continued running for as long as he could, then he walked. He did everything possible, including experimental treatments. He lived longer than medical professionals thought he might. Death was patient, for awhile.

The end-of-life conversations are done, and now the different life begins, the one without John.

I know how hard these first days are.

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