I had planned to let the death of David Bowie go by unmentioned. I liked his music and I try to wish everyone well, but I didn’t feel like I had much to say beyond what’s already been said. Now Alan Rickman has died. Cancer killed both of them.
Both of my parents died of cancer. The vast majority of my aunts and uncles died of cancer. I cannot count the number of friends and close acquaintances who’ve fallen to it. “Fuck Cancer” is a popular saying on the Internet, and I have no argument with that. The number of people I know right now for whom this is a daily burden is almost beyond comprehension.
A death from cancer is no more or less heartrending than a death from any other cause. A death from cancer, however, seems to carry an element that reminds us that there is something bigger than ourselves. It makes distinctions, but not ones we choose, control or even understand. It’s not random, but we don’t understand much of how it works. Has there been progress? Of course. But we still are greeted with it in the morning news or, as is more often the case, we receive the phone call that strikes so very close to home. You quickly see that what we know is far exceeded by what we don’t.
It is tempting to despair. It’s equally tempting to think that mourning is weakness, somehow “giving in.” Neither is true. Mourn those who have been taken from us. While they rest in peace, do what you can to encourage those who are fighting, comfort those who have fought all they can, and help those who shoulder the load of caregiving. That’s the best way to honor the memory of those we’ve lost.
It’s really the only way.