She told her children that she didn't want to die, and, goodness knows, she doesn't. I'm not sure how long the fight has gone on, but my colleague's epic battle with cancer seems now to be over. She's been moved to hospice.
In all my years here, I can think of only one other time when a colleague, not a retiree, died--and that was in a car accident. I don't know that there's a protocol established, but it's not that we haven't been given a warning--her battle has been going on for a long, long time.
I remember when she first came on staff. In my writing class, of the dozen or so education majors, at least two or three per semester wanted to do their interview assignment with Cella. They loved her because she gave so much of herself in the classroom, or so it seemed to me. It's probably fair to say that in the classroom she gave more of her soul away than most of us do; and the rewards were there in her students' respect--and more importantly, love.
Soon enough, this long fight will finally be over. Through so much of it, life has simply gone on for the rest of us; we've waged our own petty battles, thinking them armegeddons. But they weren't and aren't, and now, once again--it happens often--mortality leaps from the bushes and reminds us of the transience of all things, maybe especially our penny-ante griefs and grievances.
I wish I could learn the lesson as easily as I can post it. Here's a line from a review of a book on Beauty: "Beauty is not only a source of pleasure but also an ethical summons, requiring us to 'renounce our narcissism and look with reverence on the world,' and offering intimations of the sacred even to those who have no truck with religious belief."
What I know the death of my colleague should inspire in me is a renewed reverence for life itself, a greater appreciation for the lillies of the field, and a greater commitment to seek such things out, to live more fully, as Thoreau might say, in the grandeur that goes unnoted all around.
That's what I know, but why is it so blame hard to live a reverential life before the Creator?
The imminent death of a colleague urges me--as it will all of us here, I'm sure--to number our days, as such death always does. Taking that very lesson to heart, however, is just plain difficult in the rush of everyday life. It may well be the only part of the battle she's been fighting that she won.
Maybe one has to be dying before one understands how to live. But aren't we all?