Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Greatest Gift

I read an article back in April about young people blogging about death. You can read my post here. The article chronicled Eva Markvoort, a Canadian, 25 year-old who had cystic fibrosis, and died in April from chronic rejection, while waiting for a second double lung transplant. She was an outspoken advocate in Canada for both cystic fibrosis and organ donation. And she was the subject of the documentary “65_RedRoses” (which as far as I can tell, is not available in the United States as of yet). She also authored a live journal/blog of the same name (which her parents continue to update).

I’m not sure what drew me back to her site. She had already passed away by the time I heard about her.

I spent the better part of a night watching the video of the memorial service for her. And crying. It was called “A Celebration of Love”, and that’s exactly what it was. If love could save lives, she would still be here, for she gave and received so much love in her short life. I didn’t know this person, but I felt like I did.

We can certainly learn lessons from this, and many of us with illness – especially those who have a pre-illness life – will agree that we live life differently now, because we are aware that time is short, finite, and uncertain. We have to be thankful for everyday we have, and all that we are able to experience with the time we have.

It makes me feel overwhelmed that I need to do something about this, that young people don’t keep getting taken away from us far too soon. In my own experience, I’ve seen this a few times, and it’s a few too many. Parents should not have to bury children.

Eva’s message was all about love. And she lived by the quote, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” And not just romantic love. But also the love of family and friends.

My boyfriend’s grandfather passed away this week. Right now we are in New Jersey. I know that ugly family disputes can sometimes occur in these kinds of situations, but in this case, all that is left is love – the love that the surviving family has, and the love that the deceased person had for them.

My boyfriend’s brother is a Rabbi, and delivered a beautiful eulogy. It made me feel like I had known his grandfather personally, even though I unfortunately never got the chance to meet him.

And as the date grows closer to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of one of the children of my cousin who passed away last year, I find myself thinking about him. And I think of my cousin often. I have a picture of him on a dresser in my bedroom. I have not been to his gravesite. I will go at some point. Sometimes it’s hard to move on for reasons that are unknown.

As my cousin grew closer to death, he lost his faculties, and I believe, a core part of who he was, was lost along the way. I won’t speculate further, because I wasn’t privy to his last few months, but I know that it wasn’t a beautiful, celebratory experience. It was horrific, and no one should ever have to go through it.

So how do we make sense of the unfairness of life? How do we comprehend such bright lights being taken away from us? How do we attempt to live by example when they are no longer physically present to guide us?

And why do some of us find the need to make public something that is considered to be very private? This is not everyone’s cross to bear. Talking candidly about illness, death, and core beliefs is not something that everyone feels the need to share.

I recently finished reading “Promise Me” by Nancy G. Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Before Susan died, she implored Nancy to help other women with breast cancer. Nancy made a promise. It’s a true testament to sister’s love. (I won’t voice my qualms with the foundation here)

And that’s what I keep coming back to. Love…love…love...

If illness has taught me anything, it’s to live life out loud, to not hold anything back, because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring.

And I’m in love, more than I ever thought was possible. It is truly such an amazing gift.

In the end, love is all there is. Love given and love received. Pure, unadulterated love that isn’t apologized for or couched in lame platitudes.

I’m sure it’s different for someone who has been dealing with illness for their entire life, as opposed to someone who gets sick at some other time. But it doesn’t make losing them any easier.

I think the reason why these cases of young people getting sick and dying, like Randy Pausch (who I blogged about, and whose death touched me deeply despite the fact that I didn’t know him personally), captivate us because we secretly hope for the happy ending. We hope that a cure will be found or an organ will be procured before it is too late. Lately, I feel myself immersed in these kinds of stories.

And I have to wonder…

Did Eva get her happy ending? I sincerely hope she did.

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