Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Enter Sandman--exit disappointed, maybe no exit

I read a posting on my internet book club about Stephanie Williams, a writer who died of breast cancer at age 33. She took the last year, enduring chemo, vomiting and pain, to complete the novel she'd always dreamed of writing--Enter Sandman. I plan to read it, especially because part of the proceeds go to breast cancer research. I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I just know in the '1 in 4 line' to get cancer, I'm #4; it's just a matter of time. Stephanie's final article was an autobio in Glamour's September 2004 issue. I went to the library to find it and photocopy it for a friend. I read it today as I sat outside my seven-year-old's violin lesson. Amid the squeaks and squawks and occasional pure sounds, I cried as I heard a dying woman's voice from the pages of that poor quality photocopy. She talked about what it was like to live with the knowledge that she was dying. She talked about the man she loved and hoped to marry and have children with. She talked about learning to slow down and be unselfish, about loving her family--especially her mom and sister. She talked about joys, but mostly the regrets. Stephanie ended the article with a punch. She wanted to be remembered by her family, yes, but she wanted to be remembered by me. Effective writing, yes. Remembered by me, yes. But maybe not for the reasons she meant. What punched me more than her dramatic "I want to be remembered by you" was the bitterness and selfishness that surrounded her story. Now I admit I've never been in love with someone who is dying. My life is not so romantic (excuse the sarcasm). But I read about her boyfriend moving away for his career, and then refusing to discuss marriage with her when he knew her cancer was terminal, even though he knew she wanted to get married. Protecting his interests? She alluded to his not being able to bear the pain. What about her pain? As I saw him, he was heartless and self-serving. I don't think she meant to paint him that way, but it screamed at me through the pages. Could he not donate one year of his potential sixty remaining to be there for her? Obviously not. She talked about feeling robbed of her life. I believe that. Then I look at the life of the seventeen-year-old boy in my town who died last week when he had a heart attack playing basketball. Over a thousand people came to his funeral. "Rosie," as he was called, was a young man who loved Jesus. He wanted to be a missionary and an evangelist and spent his high school years befriending other students, loving them, praying with them and for them, and telling them about his Best Friend. He left behind a legacy of joy and hope--a life fulfilled in its short seventeen years. I contrast his life with Stephanie Williams, what legacy did she leave? Her family knew she loved them; that's truly beautiful. But beyond that, when the Sandman entered, did she exit disappointed? Or did she find there was no exit, because she hadn't prepared for what was to come? I hope she met Jesus before she closed her eyes the final time. I don't know, but based on her article, I exit disappointed--for her.


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