I have a friend wasting away from cancer.
I’m in the wedding. It’s on Long Island. There will be pretty flowers and men in tuxedos and a big white cake. A band will play loud music, folks will clamor for the bride and groom to kiss. I’m thrilled—great guy, great bride.
I haven’t been in much contact with my friend who’s dying. She’s pretty hard to reach these days. The cancer has spread throughout her body. She recently acknowledged the inevitable—that drugs and operations won’t save her; that he life is coming to an end.
I was walking to Starbucks this morning, thinking about the contrasting highs and lows. On Saturday night, I will present the bride and groom with a gift. It’ll be, perhaps, a wood salad bowl. Or an ice cream maker. Or some wine glasses. This is what we do when people wed, and I’m by no means bemoaning the ritual. It’s what we should do. Celebrate life. Celebrate love. Lather ourselves in the excitement; in the feelings. Mazel tov.
And yet, at the same time I’ll be eating my poached salmon, where will my other friend be? What will she be thinking? How will she be feeling? How are we, as a people, able to celebrate as others suffer? How can we dance to a Black Eyed Peas’ song as others we know can’t muster the strength to climb five steps?
I don’t have an answer. People always say, “Life must go on” and “Honor those who can’t do by living fully,” and I agree. But it’s not easy, and shouldn’t be easy. These things are complex and complicated, and the guilt I feel isn’t swayed by the joy I feel. They’re battling emotions.
As they should be.