Tuesday, July 14, 2015

THE GIFTS OF BRAIN CANCER: It is what it is; when it's over, it's over.

Haven't been here often in the last year. My mind has been engaged in other things, among them the beautiful life and inspirational departure from this life of my friend Lee Long.

With her sister Kari following Lee's buzz cut prior to surgery
A little over a year ago, Lee and her family began the full-time job of treating her brain tumor to allow for more than a few weeks of life. It's been a year and a half: Surgery, radiation, chemo and all of the yucky recovery issues that follow such things. Remarkably enough, and with formidable strength and faith, Lee and her family enjoyed living life to the fullest...albeit in between the treatments and recovery.

About 6 weeks ago, Lee shared with us that her treatments had come to an end. She began with a nod to her friend Linda Dolny who had often shared with Lee a favorite saying, "It is what it is; when it's over, it's over."

The tumor in Lee's brain was growing again, this time in all directions. In typical Lee fashion, she accepted it with grace and gratitude, often sharing on Facebook how blessed she was to have had the last year and a half. She'd seen her youngest son graduate from college, her other 2 children marry, had visited with her dying mother, enjoyed wonderful family reunions and she and her devoted husband, Don, had time together to accept her passing away to the new world, one that she'd anticipated and embraced. She was grateful for all of that and more.

Wedding of son Harry to Cecelia.
Following the wedding of daughter Brita to Dan.
With husband Don and son Jeremy at his college graduation
Lee has been writing a book, lessons and revelations from her journey with brain cancer that she wanted to pass on to those of us who would be left here still trying to figure out what is important and what's not. The Gifts of Brain Cancer is now in the capable hands and mind of daughter Brita, who will bring it to publication in time.

This lady was not perfect, sometimes she screwed up, sometimes forgot, sometimes...well, she was a normal human being. What made her stand out was her faith; her intelligence; her desire to help others and to be kind; her need to support her husband and raise responsible, kind and compassionate children; her love of learning and her desire to live the heck out of this life. She had a sense of adventure and was thrilled to ride as a passenger on the back of a motorcycle and (most recently) in a helicopter with son Jeremy.

It has been said that we are here to serve and to learn--to evolve into higher spiritual beings. If this is our truth, then Lee completed the courses, she learned her lessons well, met all the requirements and (on July 13, 2015) graduated from this living and from the encroaching and debilitating pain of brain cancer to a way that we cannot begin to understand fully. All that we have is faith and trust and (for some of us) the enlightened words of others who have written books to guide us: the Bible, Torah, Koran and others. If Lee taught us anything, Lee taught us by example to have faith and to trust. She and I talked about that a few weeks ago; we agreed that the end of our life, when we depend so much on others, teaches us humility and trust, which bolster our faith. My faith is not as strong as Lee's, but her journey has reconnected me with my own spiritual journey, and her example is helping me to let go.

So now, a day after Lee's passing into that mystical world that she was anticipating with joy, we must let go of having Lee with us to talk to, to share with, laugh and cry with. Her family and friends will struggle with this loss. It will not be easy, but Lee has prepared us.

Lee has graduated. We are still here, left to finish our learning and to give with kindness and generosity--to live the heck out of this life and evolve into higher spiritual beings. Surely we will honor Lee as we do so.

1 comment:

Carolyn Wehmann Magness said...

Thank you, Despina, for this warm and wonderful eulogy for Lee. You are a true friend and knew her well. She was indeed a smart and funny woman who lived life to the fullest. I will always laugh about our time together as Cub Scout den leaders. You can only imagine!