Every once in a while you meet someone and for whatever random reason you seem to already know each other - your souls seem to recognize each other - and you are able to connect and form an instant, deep friendship that exists in a realm beyond the superficiality of most casual acquaintances. I felt this when I met MC a few months ago during my ocean swim training- I think that he probably has that effect on many people. He went out of his way to take care of everyone when we were swimming in the ocean and we all knew that he was caring for his beloved partner in her final months of a long and awful battle with colon cancer. Though I've only known MC for a few months, I had an overwhelming urge to be at his beloved's funeral earlier this week.
Many in my swim squad had the same instinct - and we were all so glad we could be there for MC. We had no way of knowing how his beloved's ex-husband and his family would dominate the funeral, no way of knowing that our urge to be there to support MC would add so much balance for him, it was just an instinct that being there for him was important.
Funerals by nature inspire deep reflection and I found myself thinking about Frank Bailly. My grandmother was very proud to say that she had only ever said 'I love you' to two men - my grandfather, and Frank Bailly. My grandparents had a fantastic, happy marriage. My grandmother was absolutely beautiful, incredibly intelligent and articulate, and fascinated by people and the stories they would tell you if you dared to ask; she was an editor of a magazine and was well known. My grandfather was the most wonderful of men, with this child like love of life that was beyond contagious, and to this day I feel his spirit in the fun moments of life. My grandfather hailed from a family of legendary longevity, so everyone was shocked when he died young and suddenly of pancreatic cancer. No one was more shocked than my beautiful grandmother who spiraled into an angry and very dark depression...until Frank entered - or shall I say re-entered the scene.
Frank and my grandmother had wanted to date in highschool but were not allowed to court due to a difference in religious backgrounds, and he went on to have an wonderful happy marriage and was a well known big band tenor saxophonist. His wife died around the same time my grandfather did, and as widows my grandmother and Frank enjoyed a few years of a loving courtship. They hit the town, dinners and concerts and theatre and music halls. When my grandmother started to get sick Frank stayed by her, and even at the end he lit up the nursing home with regular visits and kept her company during her more lucid moments.
I was thinking about Frank at the funeral earlier this week, hoping that at my grandmother's funeral he had people around him supporting him, and that my family was suitably grateful, respectful, and honouring of the love and happiness he had given my grandmother in her last years of life.
My friend MC was trying to reach an enormous fundraising target of $10 000 through sponsored long distance runs and open water swims before his beloved passed, as a living tribute to her and a way to honour her. He and his beloved were not cynical about cancer research -- they believed that she had an extra four years of life because of medical treatments and that these four years gave her precious time with her daughters and a chance to meet her granddaughter who was born on her birthday a few months ago.
This drive, this determination he showed under circumstances where he might have wallowed in helplessness reminded me of DB, a client and good friend of mine with cerebral palsy. I was remembering DB from a few years ago when he was trying to cope with his mom's pending death, also of cancer.
I had know DB for several years at this point, and in all of the years I worked with him previously he had been happy to do things to help him maintain his ability to get into and out of his wheelchair but was happy not to be pursuing any sort of free standing or balancing due to hip and back pain. Suddenly one day, standing up from his wheelchair unassisted and being able to stand and balance independently became a very important priority to DB and we started working feverishly and determinedly towards this, eventually achieving it. I asked him why after all of these years this was suddenly so important to him, what had changed?
His answer was mind blowing and humbling. DB remembered how happy it made his mom when he learned to stand after years of hard work with an incredibly uncooperative body. He knew she was dying, and was respectful of her choice to have no further treatment after a long and difficult battle. He felt that if he could stand at church he could make her happy. It was his way to offer a living tribute, to honour her, to do something positive for her in her final days.
I have told this story previously in public presentation under the context of understanding the motivation behind a goal, the why behind the what, looking at the bigger life needs and individual reasons that something might be important to somebody. And I recognized DB's why in the fundraising my friend MC was doing -- the need to do something positive, to honour, to pay tribute when helplessness was not a satisfactory response.
I was thinking about DB and about MC was inspired and moved by their ability to turn sad situations into something positive, to lift people when they needed it most, and to serve the people they love instead of being trapped in their own grief and helplessness. I hope that if there is ever a need for me to be that person, I can find the strength to get past my own issues and find focus on doing something that will honour and lift, or bring happiness to someone who needs it.
MC is still fundraising for Cure Cancer Australia - to donate and help him continue to honour his beloved, please follow this link:
MC - this your beloved's favourite song was so beautifully performed at your beloved's funeral; I hope you don't mind me sharing it here. My thoughts are with you friend.