Why do people have to suffer from cancer?

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For months, people have been talking about Joey Feek, the country singer who battled cervical cancer for a year and a half.

This includes people like me, who had never listened to the music of country duo Joey + Rory until recently. According to Rory Feek’s blog, This Life I Live, his 40-year-old wife lost her battle at 2:30 this afternoon. She had been in a deep sleep for days, her morphine dosage upped to help ease her pain.

I’ve been following the couple’s story for a couple of months. I can’t tell you why. Nor do I know why others have been so captured by it. Some people say it’s because of the strength and dignity with which the star has been handling her death. It isn’t wrong that the young mother of a just-turned-2-year-old is getting the attention, but haven’t many thousands, or even millions, of people all around the globe been doing the same thing for untold years?

Is that the key – that Joey’s story is touching the rest of our lives because we have experienced something similar on some level?

Because every time I read something about Joey, I think about my mom’s last days, spent in a hospice bed, surrounded by people who loved her, dying of more than one form of cancer. She faced it with dignity, too. I remember the last conversation we had, while she was in that bed, four days before she died. We remembered many things from the past, we said things we needed to say, but most of all we laughed laughs that needed to be laughed. We also tried to say goodbye, but it is impossible for me to judge how well we did that.

Those days were gut-wrenching, and so have been these days, watching and waiting for Joey to win or lose her battle. These days also have me asking questions.

Why can’t we solve the puzzle and cure cancer? Especially in the United States, where we have people who have millions of dollars, why can’t we get this mission accomplished? Companies spend millions, maybe even billions, of dollars, on testing makeup on animals (which is so wrong), but we could be using that money to find the cure for a disease that is killing in ever-more-increasing numbers.

And why do people have to spend their last days in waste and pain? We allow our animals to go with dignity, but we mostly won’t allow it for our people. Judging by how many people treat animals, I wouldn’t say the majority of people love them more than people, would you?

But we do allow our animals to go when it’s time. And it appears to be peaceful. I have had three German Shepherds who needed to be put to sleep when their illnesses (cancer for each of them, how ironic is that?) became unbearable. And I held each of them while they appeared to fall asleep and then their hearts stopped beating.

I was also holding my mom when she left this world, but those last four days were filled with constant worrying about and monitoring of her pain, and her crying out here and there when the medicine wasn’t working so well. Why, when there is absolutely no hope, can we not do the same thing for people, end their suffering?

I certainly think it could be a slippery slope from OKing death to sanctioning killing. But when we have the capability to do for people what we can do for animals, why the double standard?

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You can mourn someone you’ve never met

graveyard-celebrity deathsIn the past couple of years, I have mourned the loss of several people who I had never met.

Leonard Nimoy (yes, who was Spock of Star Trek but also had success in movies, television shows, in the recording studio and in the art world) died Feb. 27, 2015.

The mercurial, but nonetheless talented singer/songwriter Scott Weiland died Dec. 3, 2015. And even though his death was predicted and “expected” for years, that didn’t make it any less shocking, any less painful for me when it came. I loved Stone Temple Pilots, and I also loved all of Weiland’s side projects. I met him once and made him laugh, and I will carry that image of him forever – his head thrown back in true laughter at something I did that he called “delightful.”

The great David Bowie passed away Jan. 10. Just four days later, actor Alan Rickman died. Both men had cancer, and both were 69 when they died. In this day and age, that isn’t old. And both were vibrant and still performing amazingly well in their chosen careers.

I still recall like it was yesterday sobbing and dropping to my knees when I learned that John Lennon had been murdered on Dec. 8, 1980. I remember right where I was, who I was with, what I was wearing, how I heard the news. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I loved him and his music so much. My teen brain couldn’t make sense of the fact that he was a peace activist and he was murdered. I still want someone to explain that one to me. And there’s the snuffing out of all of the wonderful music he was making and would have made…

When Johnny Cash died, I felt like I had lost a family member. I wept bitterly the day I found out he was gone. My dad played his records when I was a child, and I followed Cash’s music career as I grew up and moved from place to place. Never saw him in concert, never met him, but I truly loved him. Maybe this won’t make sense to some people, but he was like a father figure to me.

Why do celebrity deaths affect us so much? I think there are many reasons. But, mostly, I think it’s that these people gave us themselves and their time, and therefore we spent time “with” them. I knew everything about Lennon, and as a teenage girl I had spent hours and hours talking with friends about him and listening to his music.

Bowie made me feel like being an outsider, a misfit, wasn’t so bad. It was fine to not be like everyone else. In fact, it was cool to be whoever I was, whoever I wanted to be, and I could change and change again and still be cool. I could just be me. And that was all right.

Cash spoke out for the downtrodden, the broken, the wayward people. I felt his music deeply, and felt like he was talking to me in some of the things he said.

As Spock, Nimoy taught me many lessons when I was a child and as I grew up. I also loved his music. And later his art. He seemed a noble person to me.

Rickman made me laugh, and cry. His quality roles are too numerous to list here, and I may have loved him for the ones that were not as famous as others. I wonder if he would find it funny that the first thing I thought when I learned he was dead, while I hadn’t even wrapped my head around Bowie’s death, was, “By Grabthar’s Hammer…” And then I laughed. I think he might have approved.

The bottom line is this: Let people criticize us “commoners” when we mourn the passings of the famous. Love is love, no matter where it is found. Go ahead and love, and mourn, however deeply you need to.

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