“You always try to get an A in everything”  she said.  “You can’t get an A in Cancer.”

It was a challenge to me.  “Can I at least get an A in dying of cancer?”  Ambitious.

It started slowly, like the cancer.  I made friends with cancer.  Some died.

I couldn’t be with them, couldn’t look them in the eye, couldn’t hold their hands.

In my head, they were already dead.  I wanted to scream, “You’re dying, don’t you know?”

You can’t say that to someone.

So I didn’t say anything, didn’t reach out.

I was ashamed.

If I were in their shoes, they would’ve been there for me, looked me in the eye, held my hand.

How could I do better?  I started to learn about dying.  I talked about death, read about it, and started to sit with it.

I visited more dying friends, slowly learning to be with them.  Learning to have normal conversations, to look in their eyes & hold their hands.

For extra credit, I started speaking about death & dying at conferences.

Now I’m trying to teach others to be more comfortable with dying.

I’m still learning, reading, writing, and speaking about death & dying.  More friends have died.

Soon it will be my turn.

I’ve convened a “circle of care”, an amazing group of friends and family to be there for me when I’m sick, which is most of the time these days.

I asked them to help me when I can’t help myself.  When I can’t speak for myself.

I didn’t know I would need them so soon.

I’m going to get an A in dying of cancer.