On February 26th, my grandmother passed away at 87 years old. She had been diagnosed with cancer a little over a year before - an aggressive cancer that had sapped her strength and left her exhausted soon after her prognosis.
I'm sad she's gone, of course, but I'm also relieved she's no longer in pain. I'll miss her and I regret that I hadn't seen her since September, but my desire to see her again is tempered by my relief that I never saw her when the pain got really bad, when she got really sick. My memories of her will always be ones full of health and happiness.
The only thing I'm struggling with though, is the framing of it. As society, we see cancer as a battle. "She's fighting cancer," we lament. Sometimes, we rejoice: "He beat cancer!" It's supposed to be empowering. And for many people with cancer, I think (hope?) that helps.
But what about when they don't beat cancer? I don't want to think of my grandmother passing away as her loss in a battle. I don't want to frame it as a "defeat."
My grandmother left El Salvador at the beginning of their civil war. She raised three kids - a son and two daughters - mostly on her own. She put them through school, my mother through UCLA, without having gotten a high school diploma herself. She hadn't learned English before moving to California, but she worked hard as a nurse to put food on the table, clothes on their backs, and create a life for them here.
She was strong. One of the strongest women I've ever had the fortune to know, let alone be related to. She worked hard, protected her family, and in many ways fought a lot of battles so my mother and her siblings wouldn't have to.
The idea of her losing to anything? Now? I'm not okay with that. I can't - won't - see it that way. But when someone isn't sure of Heaven and doesn't see death as "going home," and therefore a "win" (so to speak), how do you frame it?
No matter the answers, one thing here is clear - Don't miss out on a chance to go see someone, especially if they're sick. Hug your loved ones today and tomorrow. There may not be a day after.
And also? Screw cancer.