Kage Baker, in her final few weeks, told me to take her dying as a learning experience. She told me it would be useful, if I let it – that I would have learned new and vastly important things, things that not even the deaths of my parents and hers had taught me.
My parents both died suddenly, and I was spared their final care. I did help take care of Kage’s parents, and the death of her mother in particular ripped the heart out of both of us. I thought I had quite enough experience, thank you. None of it had ever helped with any other; each death was a fresh piece of broken glass in the soul.
“Oh, fuck you, drama queen,” Kage said when I observed this. “If there is one thing you’re really, really good at, it’s taking care of people. You’re a responsibility junkie. You’ll survive and you’ll find a lot of this helpful. Don’t you throw away any of this!”
Well. That was the woman who still had notebooks and plastic jewelry from her grade school days, so I’m not sure just how objective her instructions to save stuff could really be. But I ended up doing exactly as she advised, producing an awful lot of these blogs out of that horrible time. Also, two published short stories and a novel, all fueled by grief and pain.
Kage actually thought that the adage about needing pain in order to create was a lot of bullshit. She felt that there is no point to pain, that a life without it could be perfectly fine, if it could be managed. But no one can get away with that particular trick, so the only thing to do was survive – give the finger to cruel fate – and try to use what you had learned for something better. Something else, at least.
Today was my brother-in-law Ray’s first round of chemotherapy. He has been diagnosed with liver cancer; a PET scan yestreday also showed metastases in various lymph nodes, and his cervical spine. Despite this, he has no cancer-related discomfort; no jaundice, no back pain, no nausea. Considering that he has also battled congestive heart failure, diabetes and Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease for years, it’s rather amazing that he feels as well as he does …
We can’t tell, yet, what side effects the chemo will have. He is already confined to a wheelchair, and long ago said goodby to his hair – he’s 70 years old, for heaven’s sake, and is already the oldest man in his family in 3 or 4 generations. The chemo is palliative treatment, to shrink or erase as much of the cancer as can be done. We are working on making him comfortable now, to make his last months as good as we can – because his oncologist estimates a life expectancy of six months. I hope so. Kage’s doctor said the same thing, and she was gone in 2 weeks. I hope six months is not their “hamburger, hamburger” sort of thing.
So, here I am. I know how to administer IM drugs, and have already been doing that. He may need a PICC line, which is a permanent IV port; I know how to handle that, as well, and can even knit some covers, as I did for Kage – though I think Ray will want nice masculine solid colours, like green or black, and not the tropical cocktail migraine stripes Kage liked … but, yeah, I know all about hospice care at home.
Kimberly, Michael and I will soldier through this. The physical part is the easiest to accomplish (though not to get used to); which is why I hope we have more than 2 weeks. I hope it’s as relatively easy as it was for Kage; I hope nothing new and horrible comes up.
We all owe God a death, they say. That is also a lot of bullshit – everything that lives, dies; except maybe for tardigraves, the little buggers – but why do we have to pay so much with other people’s lives? If it was just me, no big deal. I could handle that, no problem. Why do we have to make that mortal payment for other people? It’s not right. It’s not fair.
This is the conundrum that made Kage write about the immortal Operatives: the ones who save the past, who cheat death, who restore the lost and who, themselves, never, ever die. Kage wanted to know why we lose the ones we love. I hope she found an answer that satisfied her, when she herself walked into eternity; I am sure she sternly questioned God about it, and if the answer didn’t satisfy her, I’m sure He took great pains to correct that … He did if he’s as smart as He’s supposed to be, anyway.
Kage wrote to make the people and things she loved immortal. It helped to live with their absence, to know she had tucked them away safely in the care of the Company. I’ll have to try her solution.
Again. Damn it. Again.