The List

“You have ca… You have can.. cancer. But we think it’s treatable.”

I read The List early this morning, the day after hearing a doctor tell a wonderful older couple the news. The full bone scan tells a different story. It can be treated with radiation, but at what price for an old man already writhing in unbearable pain? My friend has been on “the list” once before 20 years ago. Now he’s back on it, this time for good. He’s a strong man, but not that strong, not immortal, not invulnerable. The treatment will not stop it this time. Morphine and lots of love will see him through until he’s off the list for good.

My step-daughter, Katherine, was placed on “the list” at age 30. She was exited the list at 34. Her ashes are on the mantel now. Her courage, her buoyancy, her steadfast refusal to let being on “the list” define her, her compassion for the doctors and nurses who “treated” her with surgery, chemo, more surgery, radiation, lasers, and morphine, and for us, the members of the family to whom she brought so much delight, have left us with so much more than what’s left on the mantel.

I’ll post a piece written during the third year of Katherine being on “the list” later today. Look for “It’s raining; it’s pouring.”

For now, share your stories with a comment here, or go to Courteney Bluebird’s blog and comment there. All of her work is remarkable and worth the visit.

5 thoughts on “The List

  1. Oh my. I followed all the links and read the poetry. It is so painful and powerful. I thought about all the parishioners who’ve died. Especially those whose deaths I’ve been so grateful to attend.

    I know of nothing more life-altering. It is profound to have deeply loved someone who died. Some have been like the mother of 100 Words. Some are like your step-daughter, Gordon, or the old man.

    There is so much we have to learn throughout our lives. But there are no lessons on how to die, except what we learn from our experiences of others. What greater blessing can there be?

    These writings shared by Gordon, Bluebird, and 100 Words are an incalculable gift. I am so grateful. Thank you.


  2. I am profoundly moved that you felt compelled to share some of the story of your friend as well as the story of your stepdaughter. Moved and touched. Thank you so much for this thoughtful response to my poem, and I am ready to witness and read your stepdaughter Katherine’s story later today. “The List” was… is… the hardest poem I’ve ever written. Thank you.


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