I’m not going to gripe about being on hold with BestBuy for two hours or the fact that Starbucks charges an extra 60 cents for soy milk today. It’s time to talk about the things that really make me sick to my stomach, keep folks awake with worry, and bring out existentialist crises. Today, a long-time friend of mine lost her mother to a battle with non-smokers’ lung cancer. In itself, this is terrible and depressing. But to make matters worse, another friend of mine lost her mother to the same disease less than four months ago.
My mother called to tell me the news, and after a while our conversation drifted. My mom started talking about some other family friends who have been having a rough time. A little older than my parents, both husband and wife have been struggling with serious health problems. As my mother detailed medications, surgeries, and worrisome coughs, I suddenly told her to stop. “Enough for today.” My mother frequently brings up subjects I don’t care to discuss – Mothers never stop embarrassing you. I tell her to change the subject or I’ll get off the phone, and she gets upset, saying it’s unfair for me to control the conversation like that. But today, she didn’t object, she just obliged. She too knew the feeling – enough is enough.
I’m 24 years old, and I am not ready to lose my parents. I’m also not ready for my friends to lose their parents. I’m not sure if anyone is ever actually ready for that. I know it happens, I have friends who lost their parents when they were young. Maybe too young to really remember them. But my first memory of a parent’s friend dying is when I was in 12th grade. My friend was away from home for her first year of college, and her mother found her father – he had complained of a headache the night before, but no one knew he had a brain tumor until he was gone. It scared me. Since then, there have been more losses – some sudden, some with prolonged suffering. They don’t get easier. Each one is a painful reminder of how fragile life is.
I know that death is part of life. And until it’s our time, we must live on. But tonight, I’d like to publicly declare that non-smoker’s lung cancer, common in younger women, makes me frustrated. And when one of my friends loses a parent, it really makes me sad.