INTRO: Steve just posted on his CaringBridge site: “Awoke clear-headed, with more energy than in weeks. Just wrote this poem”:
I do not know how to die.
No words left to say good-bye.
The cancer spread everywhere;
Family and friends showed they care.
Will I find a peaceful death?
Or fight for each gasping breath?
Be here now? To future bow…
- Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Dec. 29, 2015
My friend and Views from the Edge colleague, Steve, was diagnosed mid-November with terminal pancreatic cancer. For years death and dying have been a topic of conversation among the seminary friends who keep changing our group’s name. At first we called ourselves The Chicago Seven. After Dale died, we were six. We became The Gathering. More lately we call ourselves The Dogs. Steve at 6’8 is the biggest Dog. He’s always said “Big dogs go first.”
A month ago Steve came to Minnesota for a consultation at the Mayo Clinic. On a Thursday, Kay and I visited Steve and Nadja in their small room at the Kaylor Hotel across the street from the Clinic. While Nadja and Kay began to discuss the procedures Steve would undergo the next day, Steve stuck his fingers in his ears and smiled at me. I’m with Steve, I’d rather just do it when it’s time. I’d rather not know. I wonder if it’s a guy thing.
Steve wrote “The Last Septet” after his second Chemo treatment back in Illinois, a treatment meant to give him more time with no illusions about the outcome. To live forthrightly without illusion is a beautiful thing. Meanwhile, the other five Dogs watch and pray, growl and snarl, curse the cancer, mourn his demise, remember our shared mortality and the line from the Presbyterian Church (USA) A Brief Statement of Faith: “In life and death we belong to God.”
Gordon, a much smaller Dog, December 29, 2015.