Jay Lake: Writer

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[Cancer]

[cancer] My last career

Thus far in my life I have been a child, a student, a husband, a father, a lover, an author, a traveler, an advertising and marketing guy, an Internet startup guy, a business consultant, a salesman, and a cancer patient. I’ve probably left a few out here. But there are days when I feel like I have embarked on one final career.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve become a speaker for the dead. Or perhaps a psychopomp. People routinely talk to me about their experiences of death, of their fears for themselves and their loved ones, about the processes of life. Some of these conversations happen with old friends, others with total strangers. Some are quiet email exchanges, some are marked by shuddering tears.

I suppose this is because I dwell in the house of death. It’s always just around the corner for me now. I am, after all, a dead man walking. (Or in my case, stumbling.) My body has already decided it’s time for me to leave this life. We’ve just been really lucky so far in fighting our rearguard action.

Still, every day I wake up I am dying, in a more immediate and conscious sense than most of us experience. It doesn’t grant me any special wisdom or insight, but it does give me perspective. And that perspective is what others see.

So I listen to other people talk about death and dying, about loss and memory, about kindness and opportunity, about fear and hope. Sometimes I reflect those words back, sometimes I keep them safely in the hollows of my heart.

There are worse ways to leave this world than by the path of bearing witness to our collective dread and fear of death. Never would I have chosen this, never did I expect it, but I walk the path gladly enough.

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