Terry had a lovely habit of regularly writing emails to a group of friends, me included. Sort of like an update of his life every few months, of what he and his partner Daryl are up to. Family stuff, visits to friends, travel. Something I appreciate and enjoy reading and look forward to. It has been quite a few months since I last received one. I have been thinking of him on and off these past weeks, wondering why I haven’t heard from him.
I happened to catch some pictures of him recently on Daryl’s Facebook. Daryl and I are ‘FB friends’ too. The couple live in London. Terry looked so starkly different, and he was in a wheelchair. Fear crept into my heart.
I shot Daryl a private message on Facebook, inquiring as politely as I could what happened to Terry. I read his devastating reply the next morning that Terry is critically sick. He had been diagnosed with an agressive form of brain cancer which has grown many tumours. He perhaps has just three or four more months to live. He cannot read or write anymore, and losing basic motor function like for walking and dressing. And that all this has happened very quickly in the last ten weeks, so it was a terrible shock to them both.
I switched off my computer and wept for Terry and Daryl, and then I had to collect myself and get ready to go to work. Deeply saddened of course, but I was also angry. Why Terry, one of the nicest persons I know? I was asking, predictably and uselessly in such a time, ‘Why this person, God?” Meaning, why not another person. In other words, I was wishing it to happen to another human being instead. I know, that’s terrible, but then again why not? There are many terrible people in this world. Murderers, rapists, terrorists, paedophiles, human traffickers, animal traffickers, corrupt politicians and corrupt police officers and all the other corrupt officials who allow suffering and injustices to happen, etc etc. Why can’t they get brain cancer instead.
Daryl also said that Terry remains calm, gentle and serene. When I read that somehow I knew what he meant. Terry, a Christian, is one of the kindest people I know, a spiritual person in the sweetest sense. Of course I can never ever imagine the horrors of finding out that I have terminal cancer, and one that will rob me of my awareness before it finally claims my body, but somehow I totally understood that Terry is handling it the way he is. He is much loved by Daryl, with whom he celebrated their 32nd anniversary a few days ago, and the couple is much loved by their many friends and family members.
What hurts the most is that Terry is such a good person. A really beautiful soul.
I have slipped yet again into an inertia which has been a struggle to shake off, while I cope with stress at work and other parts of life, as I barely hold off malaise from sneaking close enough to touch me again. I feel selfish and downright useless feeling like this when whatever I’m trying to cope with is absolutely nothing compared to the trials Terry and Daryl are going through.
Some days I pick myself up by talking myself things are not so bad, and I stay strong that way. And of course I indulge in music and books for pleasant distraction, and writing here when I can find more time. But it doesn’t take away that things are set to stay shitty for at least another year.
I need to do something for myself to lighten the load a bit. I already did last year when I kicked out my lazy and irresponsible younger brother, who had been living with me and relying on me to take care of him. I finally told my elder siblings it is their turn to take care of him. I had been saddled for many years with this burden, carrying more than my fair share just because I am not married, while they blissfully live their family lives and were quietly content to say nothing and leave the shit with me for many years. Expecting me to take care of him, for life I suppose.
And yet, now that I have passed him to them last year, is he living in any of these siblings’ houses? Nope. They can’t stand him either, and let him rent a room. I don’t know if they share the financial burden for the rent. I don’t care to know. It’s out of my hands. Even though the masochist part of me worries for him living alone with strangers, worries if he will be exploited by them. All I know is that I still feel resentful my elder siblings expected me to take care of him and continue to let him stay at my place, yet they won’t do the same for him at any of their residence, even though they all have room for him. What screwed-up hypocrites, in sheep’s clothing of nice decent regular folks. That’s family for ya.
But of course, I’m on civil terms with them. I hate drama, had more than my share where family is concerned, and now try to avoid it at all costs because I just can’t be freaking bothered. I may not like some people, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be civil with them. Besides, it’s family, what can you do. There are things like gatherings and stuff. Just show up and be polite and respectful and then leave.
Userfriends: Shake ’em off like fleas.
So that’s one burden off. Now, some of these so-called friends I have, the ones who hang out with me or invite me to things when they need something from me, or to do some favour or another for them, or try to sell me something, or use me in some other way. Why oh why do I put up with this shit for years? I need to shake ’em loose. Call it what you will: a genuine fondness for them built up from years of knowing one another, a tendency to tell myself, “Halim, you’re not perfect either, if they can love you for your flaws, you can love them for theirs,” or just sucker stupidity on my part, I need to face up to how much I loathe this and that I need to do something final about it.
No need for confrontation or drama. Just quietly cut them loose by choosing not to spend time with them anymore. Just say no. I’m busy.
And then I need to run to my few good friends and give them a tight hug. And look through my contact list, say hi to the other nice decent people who I’ve been neglecting…
I can’t ever say hi again to Terry. That’s so painful to accept. It’s too late to write more than a few sentences to thank him and tell him how much I enjoyed the email he sent. Too late to tell him how grateful I am to have a friend like him who likes to write as well, how grateful I am for all the details he put in his emails telling us his friends all the things that was happening in his and Daryl’s lives. How much I am so happy and blessed to have his friendship.
I wanted so much to ask Daryl for their most recent address, so I can write a card and tell Terry how much he is loved by me, but I don’t want to bother Daryl who I’m sure is at his wits end with grief and stress. Daryl already said Terry is losing his functions and Daryl would have to read him the card. And what would I say in the card? Only sad and depressing stuff. No. I don’t want to bother him. And not when they have so little time together left.
If some doctor announces to me I have brain cancer or some other thing which allows me only months more to live, I would be petrified. And I would have regrets about some of the choices I’ve made in my life. I would like to think I’d be brave and think, “Great, it’s a relief“, because life’s been shit so far, but let’s face it, I’d be scared instead and cling to every hope I can be cured.
In the meantime. Take it one day at a time. Do what I can to feel better. Be grateful for what I do have. What more the hell is there left to do.