Repost: On Finding out Craig Had Metastatic Cancer

My friend Craig was diagnosed with cancer about the same time as me. Unlike me, his cancer was metastatic, having spread to other parts of his body. Before I moved from L.A., he and I got together along with his little boy. I quickly realized that while we shared some commonalities, his experience varied from mine. While I would never negate the awful experience of chemo and its aftermath, I didn’t allow myself to complain to him. He welcomed anything that offered the chance to stay alive for his wife and small children, even if just a while longer. This sweet and kind man carried himself through cancer with so much strength and dignity, even working fulltime as an attorney throughout.

After getting together, I wrote the poem below in which I tried to express not only my grief at his imminent demise, but also how ungrateful I’d been. At least I’m still here. Unfortunately, Craig, only 49, passed away the end of last week. It would’ve been inappropriate to post this before. I do so now to honor the memory of a good man.

Craig is not like me.
He is dying.

I am free
but I forget to feel glad
especially when I feel
char-blackened
from the ashen fallout
and remember what used
to be.

Craig welcomes the poisonous drip
invites chemo to
blast the hell out
annihilate
fumigate
whatever it takes
exterminate
the bulbous-eyed demon
who dons the lethal cape.

I’m an ungrateful snot
who complains of
the stench, the smell
the toxic hell
too brutal, too harsh,
too worn out
too too too

Craig is not like me.
He’d never spurn
the jutted port
that sips the caustic brew.
No more than a drowning man
would curse
the floating driftwood
that props his head above the
violent wave.

Craig’s son
plays in the sand
Runs after dogs
Tags other children.

Craig gazes longingly,
his eyes caress soft
kindergarten cheeks.
He whispers, “I hope he remembers me.”

The choppy waves
flounce and parade
upon the shoreline only to
recede and disappear
into the vast waters
of the murky ocean floor.

The boy
shouts
laughs
whines
but soon he will
cry.

For now, he doesn’t understand
Craig is not like me
He is dying.File:Ocean waves.jpg

Comments

  1. Very powerful words. My heart goes out to Craig’s family.

  2. You were so lucky to know Craig as he was you. I want to think, and I do, that he knows you are memorializing him in this very touching poem.

    What I do know for sure is that your heart and soul are good and tender. I feel proud to be a tiny part of your being.

    Please rest in peace dear Craig.

  3. What a beautiful tribute to Craig. I am so sorry he passed away and my heart goes out to his son, family and friends.

    You are a very special person with a beautiful spirit. Hugs and xoxo – Susan

  4. Thanks for your comments, Nancy, Ellen and Susan, and for such kind words. xoxo

  5. dear Eileen,

    I am so very sorry for the heartache and pain of the loss of your dear friend, Craig. please don’t feel bad about yourself – I just know that Craig felt so fortunate to have you for his friend. I know your loving and caring heart, and Craig, I am sure, knew it, too. the poem you have written in memoriam is a fitting tribute to him, eloquently and lovingly rendered with powerful words that evoke just how much he wanted to live – and just how much fucking cancer made sure his wish would not come true. I think he would be proud that you were able to intertwine both the desperation of his wish and how that wish was extinguished. but here’s a thought – and a big middle finger to cancer – THE BEAST DIED, TOO. your poem captured the awful sadness, and the anger that such a good man is gone, and I am sure that craig is somewhere thanking you for that.

    much love and comfort to you for your loss, XOXO

    Karen, TC

  6. Very moving. Thanks for sharing

  7. Eileen, you are not an ungrateful snot, we all have varying degrees of cancer, and our circumstances aren’t necessarily the same. The one thing we all have in common is we wish no one would ever have to deal with it no matter it’s level. It takes the lives of far too many both young and old, leaving far too many children, spouses, and families with broken hearts. ~D

  8. Thanks for commenting, Karen, Susan and Diane.

    Karen, yes, the beast died too!

    Diane, I know I’m not really an ungrateful snot and I agree with everything you said. At the time, I was struck with what Craig was dealing with compared to me. Also, he approached treatment with so much bravery. He tried to live life “normally” up until the end. All he cared about was being there for his wife and kids and being the husband/father they always knew.

  9. Hey E..I am sorry….U R never a snot. NEVER!…We do the best we can~ U are being way to hard on yourself~ U wrote a good poem and U R a good friend! It is our very humanity and imperfect vulnerability that lets us connect. U could never take away his Cancer~ all u ever could do was share his journey a little bit~Imperfect, human and connecting. J

  10. Jory, thanks for your kind words. I know everything you said is true. At the time, this is how it hit me. Probably survivor’s guilt or something along those lines. Craig also seemed to handle the rigors of treatment better than me. I think he was just physically stronger that way, but I felt like a wimp, like I should handle it better or something.

  11. Linda R. Malis says:

    Such a beautiful poem you wrote Eileen. Craig was a very brave man and was a winner. A beautiful soul. You are brave too. Just because you handled your treatment differently, does not mean you’re not brave. We’re all made differently and handle illness and circumstances our own way. I know you are expressing your emotions and are saddened by Craig’s passing. I’m sure he will always remember you and the dear friend you were to him. He left a beautiful legacy, but gone way too soon. I pray a cure for cancer is discovered very soon.

  12. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. This is a wonderful tribute to him.

  13. Linda, I know what you said is true and appreciate you expressing it.

    Melissa, thanks. 🙂

  14. Fantastic prose/poem. Captures it all. So well written, Eileen. Marla

  15. Oh, what beautiful prose. I fear I will be walking that path in the not-so-distant future. But unlike Craig, I have grown children who will likely remember me. My condolences to you and his family. You are a gem to remember him in such a loving, masterful way. xxx

    • Jan, thank you for your kind words. I wish you more loving times with your children than you thought possible. I wish you ease and joy even in the throes of disease. I send you love and hugs. xoxo

  16. You wrote a beautiful poem for Craig. I am sorry he is no longer with us.

  17. The Accidental Amazon says:

    Beautiful poem, moving remembrance, Eileen. Of course you are thinking of him again now, around the anniversary. I remember as a child I used to be mystified that my mother remembered all the dates on which someone she loved had died. Now, I understand. xo, Kathi

  18. Wonderful poem and tribute to your friend. I’m sorry about Craig. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

  19. Another light lost from the world, so sad and so sorry to hear this Eileen xoxox

Trackbacks

  1. […] with cancer at the same time as you, but their cancer is metastatic? Guilty? Angry? Helpless? Eileen writes movingly about this experience with her friend […]

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