31 December 2004

          Jeremiah Dying

          Jeremiah had leukaemia but went on
          with university anyway.
          The last time I met him, he looked
          thin, pale, and wore a Nike cap
          to hide his loss of hair.
          Chemotherapy. But he didn’t cry
          and could look me in the eye
          when he told me that the doctors thought
          he’d probably not see
          two more birthdays
          go by. "I talked it over with
          my parents," he said, "and we decided
          that I should carry on
          with my education, as far
          as I’m able. Do everything to
          lead a normal life while I still can."
          I wanted to ask Jeremiah why,
          if he was dying,
          he’d want to waste time and money
          in a classroom discussing
          Browning’s poems and the
          history of the
          French Revolution,
          taking exams and studying for
          a degree that
          he’d never use -
          wasn’t there anything else,
          anything else at all that
          he wanted to do, like
          travel this world,
          fall in love,
          sit on a beach to count
          the sunsets,
          write an autobiographical
          essay in a last
          wild gasp
          for immortality,
          or just lock himself in a room
          to scream blame
          and hate at God?
          But it occurred to me then
          that Jeremiah certainly knew
          far more about
          than I did -
          that there was nothing
          I could tell him that he
          hadn’t already
          thought about in
          the long nauseous nights
          he’d spent curled up
          on a white clean hospital bed.
          Myself, fumbling for words,
          telling him to take care
          of himself,
          saying that he’d get better soon;
          not realising till too late
          how brutally pointless
          those words would sound to
          a young man
          Not knowing what
          else I could say.
posted by Gilbert at Friday, December 31, 2004


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