On her 44th birthday, I want to repost something that I wrote for my friend. How can you say that she “lost” the battle against cancer after fighting against overwhelming odds for 14 years? Sitting in that hospital room was probably one of the most difficult things I have done. A poem began to intrude itself in my thoughts and I did not know why. But I figured it out. She is no longer with us, but her light remains…

For Maureen Kalix Smith

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I grasp at the hope that her rage inspired in others. 14 years ago, in the noon of her life, the light threatened to be eclipsed with the diagnosis of stage IV cancer. But she raged against the eclipse, fought and battled, endured through pain that most of us cannot comprehend, and saw her young son grown into a man, cousins and a God-daughter born, and celebrated life with her family, friends and parish.

I grasp at the hope, but it slips through my fingers as the refrain from the poem reverberates in my mind. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. So apt for my friend, and yet so terribly, cruelly wrong.

My dear, sweet girl: the poem was never meant for you. “Do not go gentle into that good night” was written for an old man, at the end of his days. The only rage you were supposed to experience, at 29, when you were first diagnosed, was at catching your son smoking. You were supposed to rage against higher gas prices and skyrocketing tuition costs. As the world moved onward, and our bodies followed, you were supposed to rage against the passing of that first blush of youth, at a cheating boyfriend, or at yet another stupid ass thing that your friend did. The dying of the light was never something that you were supposed to have to rage against.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And as your rage falters, slowly dims with the light of your life, the rage builds within me. You set yourself against the evil that is cancer, at the dying of the light. I can only set myself against my own impotent anger, at the coming of darkness.

I push at the darkness, with thoughts of you, mingling my own selfish memories with those others who gather around your bed. Yes, I was Batman, beating that flying rodent senseless with a pizza box. There were the notes we passed back and forth in geometry class to entertain each other. A friendship that spanned 29 years as I tumbled through one mess after another, and being so happy that your mother never changed her phone number because, to this day, I can still cannot find your house, only wander through your neighborhood until I stumble across it.

I continued to show up, even after you’d rather I not, because you continued to show up, when I was not sure if you could. I embrace the fact that you saw me finally get my head out of my ass. You were there when I got married—betcha’ you didn’t see that one coming? You were there for the jewelry parties and the surprise party. You were with me for a long time now, and that is why I am here with you.

Oh my dear, sweet girl. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Maybe that is why the refrain has become a mantra in my mind. It is not for you anymore to rage, rage against the dying of the light. It is time for you to put your burden down, and let go. The pain has been terrible. The sickness unbearable. The endurance required incalculable. It is time, honey, though I selfishly resist the truth. It is time for you to go gentle into that good night.

Gently, my dear one, ever so gently. Just open your hand and let go. Slip from the pain, knowing that our memories will catch you and hold you tight.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The refrain is not for you anymore, but for us. And it is such an easy thing to do, for you have made it easy for us. The light of your life fades, but the light of your existence burns as bright as the sun. Your smile is engraved on our minds, your laughter rings in our hearts, and your warmth and kindness have become pieces of our souls. The laughter you have inspired will ease the tears of your passing. You will live as long as we do.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

How can the light die when it is a part of who we are?

%d bloggers like this: