My friend Mark died yesterday. He was still deeply in denial about the state of his cancer, and wouldn't let us (his small group of friends called his "Care Team") tell anyone else about it. We had to keep it secret. He was sure he was going to pull through, and didn't want other people to know about it.
His Care Team knew it wasn't going to be like that.
Yesterday, he woke up feeling very bad after a couple of days of feeling bad, and called himself an ambulance. His heart gave up, got restarted, and gave up again. It was just too fragile from working through all the things a body has to work through when cancer has its claws in you.
Mark was a tremendous friend, genuinely good guy, and outgoing and fun. But also pretty private at the same time.
He slipped and fell off a ladder last winter and spent a month in pretty intense pain, hoping his back would Just Get Better. He lead a pretty solitary life, but when a friend went to visit him at Christmas, Mark was thin and gaunt. He'd lost 50 pounds from the constant pain, not eating well, and generally being unwell.
He finally went to the doctor, and that's when they told him about the cancer. On his liver. In his spine. Throughout his colon. Stage 4.
If the doctor's hadn't prescribed him opiates that made him essentially non-functional, he probably would have kept the diagnosis to himself, and just "toughed it out." But he needed someone to drive him to appointments, make sure he was taking the right doses while he was out of his mind on opiates and unable to count or think straight.
So his Care Team formed up. Five or six of us in the core, and a four or five floaters who were able to help out now and then.
Chemo started. He got healthier. We got him off the opiates.
They couldn't operate until they raised his body weight and got certain blood counts back into the "good" range.
Tuesday he was due to go in for his CT scan to figure out how things were progressing.
He died two hours before his appointment.
I'm just numb.
The Care Team all knew this was the 99% most likely outcome. We were prepared for it, even if he wasn't.
But his death is just another in the ever-longer string of deaths you rack up as you get older. Deaths by violence. Deaths due to health issues. Deaths due to age. People die. You get up the next day, go to work, and update your manager on the status of the various projects you are working on. You walk the dog. You buy and consume food.
When a death has happened the days still happen and things still get done... you just feel like you are encased in some sort of thick styrofoam or clay shell... you go through the motions to meet your commitments, but without joy or dedication or without even really being present.
After all... someone died.
That should mean something, right?
But it doesn't really mean anything. It means Mark won't hire me to wordsmith his dating profile, like we'd planned. It means we won't barbecue on the roof of his houseboat this summer, like we'd planned. It means I won't see him at the festivals this summer, in his custom leather long-coat he is so proud of.
But... someone else stepped in yesterday and did his job. Ships were able to come and go out of Puget Sound without crashing into each other.
We are working on clearing out his houseboat. Figuring out who gets what, and waiting for his sisters to fly into town to choose the items they want to keep.
People just ... die.
And they usually die in a cold room, surrounded by frantic people and blinding white lights. And alone.
And that's just sad.