‘ The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live.’   ~Joan Borysenko

Six months ago, my partner was told his cancer had metastasized and his liver was beginning to fail.  That prognosis came with less than a year to live.  That was a month before he was told it was attacking his heart.   Spindle cell carcinoma.

The doctors wanted him to come in to tell him that.  To explain what it meant.  To offer gentleness and support in the telling.  – He chose hear it over the phone.  He never went in to understand.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember the term.

He doesn’t talk about his illness at all.  It is both his strategy for avoiding death and for being able to live life.

I have tried to respect that, to honor his belief that it is this attitude of defiance that has allowed him to live in a normally healthy state for longer than his initial prognosis.  After all, my desire is to know him and enjoy him and love him for as long as I can.

But what I am finding is that I am unable to do this in the way that I would wish.  My partner’s response to his illness is asking me to do two very contradictory things.

In asking me to remain with him, he is asking me to agree to watch him die.  To experience his dying and the grief and emptiness that will follow.  I can agree to this.  I do not fear death.  But it means strengthening my spirit, readying my heart, preparing for my own care and continuity.

In asking me to ignore his prognosis, he is asking me to agree to act for a future together.  To plan and build hopes and dreams and foster dependencies.  – And while I have thus far agreed to this in words, I am less and less able to agree to it in spirit and mind.  I fear it means even greater loss and grief and disillusionment.

And so I am finding myself reserved and unable to engage in our everyday interactions in the wholehearted way in which I would wish.

Can a mind perform two oppositional functions at one time?  If I am on a balance-wire is there any way to reach both ends?

Is there a way to honor both of our needs if they are conflicting?  If not, how do I determine whose needs are more important?

Is it even fair to worry about my needs in the face of those of the dying?

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