Cancer-- Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma | Death | Grief | Poems About Cancer

Upon My Dying

August 4, 2018

My life.
Cut short.
It doesn’t seem fair.
The dreams,
They just keep slipping away.
Slowly,
Life slides through my hands
Like sand
From a child’s shovel.

I’m dying.
Slowly.
But I’m dying.
Life closes in.
Yesterday the ragged exhaustion
Turning into the longing to sleep forever.
Today, the cane.
Tomorrow, the wheelchair.
Slowly,
Energy drains away
And I can no more stop it
Than I can stop
The waves of the sea.

I don’t want to die.
Not yet.
After all,
I’m only thirty.
So few years.
And so many of those few years lost
To my crippling darkness

Must this be how it is?
My life,
Flickering out
Like a guttering candle.
I wanted to burn brightly!
Must I go now,
Too young,
Snuffed out,
Just like that?

I wanted so much more.
I had so many dreams.
Must they all be for nothing?
Why now,
When life is finally good,
When hope springs eternal,
And joy has come to stay?
Why now
When I’ve just begun to live?

My life.
It’s been so paltry
So lost,
So misused,
So unused,
So broken.
You’ve finally healed me.
I’ve seen the light.
Why now?
I don’t understand.

Father,
I do not want to chafe
If you are calling me Home.
Being held in Your arms will be sweetest joy.
But I wanted more time.
I dreamed of more time
To love You,
To love others,
To shout Your mercy and glory
From the rooftops.
Instead, I sit here
In my darkened room,
Weeping at my losses,
Struggling to hold the life You gave me
With open hands.

God,
I love You
And I just wanted more time,
More time for gratitude.
I too have broken my alabaster box
And wept at Your feet.
Must it all be for naught?

Oh, Father mine,
I will not chafe.
You love me always,
And I love You always.
Of this I am certain.
See?
Here are my open hands.
I give it all back to You:
Your love,
Your light,
Your glory,
Your mercy,
Your story.
Dying,
I will not chafe
But walk through gates of splendor
Into Your arms.

Written July 2, 2018.

I wrote this poem a month ago before the most recent exacerbation of my cancer symptoms. One night, I laid in my recliner and faced the truth: I’m dying. I couldn’t explain it, but I could feel the exhaustion building. Every week, life gets just a bit harder. Every week, it takes just a little more effort to function. Every week, the next week looms large ahead of me. I keep going, but it’s harder and harder. So, that night, I faced the truth and cried. A week later, as my cough worsened, I knew that I wasn’t imagining it.

Yes, I’ve known I’m dying. The cancer has been terminal since last September. Any treatments left are simply efforts to control the cancer a while longer, relieve pressure on internal organs, and increase my comfort level. The Brentuximab treatments I started last November worked better and longer than we had hoped. They gave me another good eight months, something none of us expected. I was able to live a somewhat normal life with help from others. I even went on two trips: a 2-week western road trip in May and a 9-day trip to Mexico in July. I chose not to focus on the fact that my cancer was terminal and simply focused on enjoying whatever life I had left.

But now, Brentuximab is no longer working. We are trying Revlimid now, another treatment to perhaps keep me comfortable a while longer. Whether or not it will work is unknown. My doctor is talking about “end-stage disease” now. This is the first time he has used those words. Even he is finally admitting that the end is approaching sooner rather than later.

This poem was my expression of grief and my statement of surrender. That was the night I let go of my dreams and my hopes and my plans. That was the night a quiet excitement started building inside of me. Unless God chooses to intervene with a miracle, my best dream of all will come true in the near future: my dream of going Home. Somedays, I think I can almost see Him there, holding out His arms to me and smiling, waiting to welcome me Home. I can’t wait to walk through those gates of splendor into His arms.

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  1. I am so sorry that your dreams will not all be realized. I pray God will take those broken dreams and make them into something beautiful. I pray that He will “do exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or think.” God bless you and keep you.

  2. This gave me tears because we may be soon facing this reality with my husband. I hate it. I hate that his life on earth is too short. That without a miracle (and soon) he’ll be gone. But a bit of me envies you, and him, who get to leave the darkness of this world for the glories we can’t even imagine.

    I just wish we could all go together.
    Gina

  3. Oh Ellen. I am jealous. When you see Greg, tell him we’re okay. We miss him but we’re surviving. And he’d be so proud of his children…
    Love you…

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