Jay Lake has a terminal cancer diagnosis. He expects to die within a year.
I love Jay Lake. Yet I've never met Jay Lake. I probably never will meet Jay Lake. I only heard of Jay Lake yesterday, from a story about him in the Portland Oregonian.
Last night I wrote about him on my other blog. I donated $10 to the Jay Wake pre-mortem celebration of his life/roast that is happening next month. I left a comment on the Oregonian story. I can't believe my comment was, and is, just one of two readers of the story have written.
Because already Jay has changed my life. People need to read what he has been writing. It is damn good. More, fucking good.
The guy is an excellent writer. But what makes his blog posts so fascinating and inspiring to me is Jay's brutal honesty. He is facing terminal cancer head-on. He is facing death head-on.
Tonight I read some of Jay's blog posts to my wife. She said, "Why are you so engrossed in this? I thought you were afraid of death and didn't like to think about it." Both are true.
I'm afraid of dying. I don't like to think about my death.
However, I used to be more afraid, more avoidant. Aging has a way of bringing me closer to reality.
My Medicare card came in the mail today. I'm not eligible yet, but the card is stamped with the date when I am -- not many months away. Soon I will be an official freaking Senior Citizen.
And that much closer to death.
When I get right to the edge of death's door, I want to be like Jay Lake. Laughing at death as much as I can; crying honestly when I can't laugh.
Anyway, enough about me. Now read Jay's writing. Here's some places to start:
A post about hope and despair. So real, so honest.
Over the past few years, hope has been frankly poisonous to me. Every time I’ve started to have serious hope, I’ve been shot down by another round of cancer, another round of bad news, to the point where even proudly logical me has become immersed in that species of magical thinking that says, “If you hope, you’ll just lose what you hope for, so better to despair and have the potential to be pleasantly surprised, than to hope and be shot down yet again.” I can only stand to have my head pounded into the metaphorical concrete so many times, and I’m past my limit.
The "religion" category of Jay's blog. He's a truth-telling atheist.
A post about what a bad Buddhist he would be. Me too, Jay.
I would be a terrible Buddhist these days because the literalized metaphor of my suffering is written in scars across my body, in the daily convulsions of my stomach and my bowels, in the despair and fear and occasional triumph of my thoughts. I live in the valley of the shadow of death, and there is no one here to succor me except myself, and those whose hands reach back from the light beyond.
This suffering would make me a terrible Buddhist, because it keeps me too focused on my sense of self and my narrative in this world. But it might be making me a better human being. At least I love more thoughtfully and live more carefully than I used to. If I am coming to believe in anything in the faith-holding sense, it is that I have come to believe in my own death. Which is of course the least surprising aspect of life.
The narrative? She keeps changing.