Thoughts on Mortality

My mother called yesterday to tell me a close friend has been told his cancer is untreatable. No word yet on how fast it's progressing, or how long he has left. He's not yet 65, and his wife will be alone when he's gone. They were never able to have children, and although each has a sister, they live in distant countries.

Chris and Toula have been a part of my life since I was an infant. My parents met them when my father returned to UBC for his MBA, shortly after I was born. They are part of the 'MBA crowd', a group of 6 couples who met at school. All were newlyweds at the time, started families together, left Vancouver to pursue careers, met up again in Quebec and Ontario, returned to BC in the 70's, picnicked and vacationed and spent holidays together ... Toula and Chris were our honourary aunt and uncle, and always made room for us kids in their otherwise orderly (and peaceful) lives.

In many ways, I'm closer to this group of people than any relatives. I grew up with their children, and now we're attending each other's graduations and weddings and baby showers. And now, in the foreseeable future, our parents' funerals.

This is harder to accept than the deaths of 3 of my grandparents (from a child's persepctive, grandparents are born old) because it forces me to confront the fact that my parents, who are so youthful and vibrant, are going to leave me one day, too. And that, some day, either Dean or I will be left alone.

I think it's the alone part that bothers me the most - while I will grieve for Chris (and am doing so already), it is the thought of Toula, preparing for the death of her husband, that causes me greater pain. They have been inseparable for as long as I have known them - Chrisandtoula, Toulaandchris, always spoken of together - a study in contrasts (Chris a reserved Brit, Toula an emotional Greek) who complement each other perfectly. How do you come to accept something like the loss of your other half? I think preparing for my own death would be easier, because it's finite and immutable. For Toula, the situation is not finite - she will suffer long after Chris is at peace - and she faces the biggest change of her life when he leaves her.

I don't know how I will manage if Dean dies first - a strong likelihood as he's older than I, and I come from a long-lived family - but I am grateful now, contemplating the possibility, that I will have my children to turn to, to live for when he is gone.