Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘die’

My Son Ryan

Profile of Jeanne White and her son Ryan. From Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

jeannewhiteIn 1984, one week before Christmas, Jeanne White was told that her son Ryan had contracted AIDS from a blood product he’d used to control his hemophilia. The doctors gave him six months to live. Struggling to make life as normal as possible for her thirteen-year-old son, she attempted to have him return to school as soon as possible.

She did not realize the amount of fear and prejudice that would result when the school heard of his illness and refused to allow his return. After numerous court battles, which brought he and his mother to national and international attention, Ryan was allowed back in school, only to be inundated with hate, ignorance and abuse. As a result of their struggles Ryan was befriended by numerous celebrities such as Elton John, Michael Jackson and Phil Donahue and began to educate children and parents about AIDS by speaking at schools, appearing on numerous talk shows and news programs and having a movie about his life broadcast on national television. On April 11, 1990, five and a half years after his six-month prognosis, Ryan died. His funeral was one of the most publicized services of that decade.

Shortly after Ryan’s death his mother Jeanne, who had always been behind the scenes publicly, was asked by several senators to speak about Ryan to Congress in order to pass national legislation for AIDS education. She reluctantly agreed and was instantly thrown into the media spotlight. The bill, THE RYAN WHITE CARE ACT, was subsequently passed and Jeanne White became one of the most sought after speakers in the country. She founded the Ryan White Foundation and continues advocating for AIDS education and prevention with children, teenagers and their peers.

JEANNE WHITE:

A lot of times it takes a little push. Everybody likes feeling sorry for them selves over the death of a loved one. That’s kind of normal. With me it was Senator Kennedy and Senator Hatch who got me going and I fought it every step of the way. Ryan was always the public speaker not me.I was just following Ryan around. Senator Kennedy and Hatch had just named a bill after Ryan called the Ryan White Care Act and they wanted me to come to Washington DC. It was too soon. We had just buried Ryan two days before and they asked me to come anyway. They knew it was going to be hard, but they said, “You know, this is the first chance that we have of getting something done for people with AIDS.” They said, “Ryan’s death is so fresh on everybody’s mind, his illness and funeral was carried by every network for the last week and a half. This is the first chance of someone being in the public eye that takes the focus off the disease and puts it on to the fact that ‘anybody can get it.’”

I said, “Yes”. I said, “No”. I said, “I can’t, I really can’t. Ryan used to do that, not me.” On the second day people from Senator Kennedy’s staff called me again. They said, “Terry’s going to be there.” Terry and others had helped me through a lot of bad times. During all the years that Ryan fought AIDS the more people I knew that died of AIDS. And I had seen so many families just like me. Even though I didn’t want to get involved, so many people helped me that I kind of felt like I owed it to them. Then Senator Hatch called me and said, “You know, we’re not going to take ‘no’ for an answer. I have twenty-three senators lined up for you. All we want you to do is tell what it’s like to watch your son live and die with this disease.”

So I went to Washington and I’m so glad I did. It made me feel good. I didn’t feel I did great, not like I wanted to. I could have done better but I knew I was sincere in what I felt and said. After that, people wouldn’t let me stop.

Phil Donahue, who was a pallbearer at Ryan’s funeral, has become a very good friend of the family. When he was in the hospital visiting Ryan he noticed all the mail and could not believe how much was pouring in. He took a bunch of the letters back to New York with him and called saying, “Do you realize these letters are all from kids?!” I said, “Well yeah, that’s who generally wrote Ryan.” He said, “Jeannie, you’ve got to continue this work. You’ve got to answer this mail.” Phil said, “I’ll hire you an assistant.” There were over sixty thousand letters! Phil kept his word and with the help of Marlo Thomas and the St. Jude volunteers, they were able to find a lady that lived close by.

I was so impressed with Ryan, so proud of him. Sometimes I’d think, “Golly, is he really my son?” To me he was just my little kid, but to the nation, he was this celebrity and hero. I hated to even think that I could follow him, his impact was so great and people listened. When I speak I’m always a nervous wreck, even though I’ve been doing it now for years. I’ve messed up a lot, but I’m me. When I introduce myself I say, “I’m just a mom. I’m a mom just like your mom and because of this misunderstood disease called AIDS, my life changed overnight.” I say a prayer every time I go out. I say, “Lord, please help me to get through this. Help me educate these young people. Help me make a difference in their lives with my story.” Then I say, “Ryan, please be there with me.” Then I have this kind of surge that goes through me and I feel like its Ryan saying, “OK, Mom, I’m with you.”

I think we’ve made a lot of progress. By “we” I mean everybody who has committed so hard to fighting this disease with education and through therapy and drugs and medical treatment. I think we’ve come a long way. The people who have to be commended the most are the people that are not here. Their lives had to be lost for us to get where we are today, to show compassion. Even though I’m tired I’m still doing it because of the Terry Burns, the Mike Callums and the family members that I’ve seen.

One day we were riding in the van and Ryan reached over and grabbed my hand and started swinging it. I looked over and said, “OK, what do you want?” He said, “I don’t want anything.” “Come on Ryan, what do you want?” I continued. He replied, “Can’t a son hold his mother’s hand? ” I said, “Come on, you really don’t want anything?” “Mom, I just want to say thank you for standing by me, for always being there for me.”

I remember that moment when I speak to teenagers. You know, we always think everybody’s going to be here tomorrow, but one day you’re going to wake up and somebody’s not going to be there. I say, “You might think this stupid old lady up here doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but I do. The next time you go home from school, even if you think it’s the corniest thing you’ve ever done, write a letter to your parents. If you think you’re real cool and you can’t go up and hug them around their neck and say, ‘Mom. Dad. Thank you. I love you.’ Then write a note and put it on their pillow. Do something so that you’ll never be sorry.”

It would have been easy to be mad all the time at the people who ridiculed us, who discriminated against us, but we had to put our lives in perspective and look at what was really important and what wasn’t. Everybody saw on the news that it was this fight for Ryan to go to school, but the number one priority in our life was keeping him healthy. Second, was keeping my job at General Motors, because we had great insurance and it paid for all his medical bills. And the third part was my daughter Andrea, keeping us together as a family.

At first, it’s like, “Why?” Everybody wants to know why. Why wasn’t he given a miracle? All my life I was taught if you pray hard enough, if you believed hard enough, that you would get a miracle and you could never doubt that or you wouldn’t get one. I never thought Ryan was going to die. I just couldn’t quite understand that. I thought nobody had more people praying over them than Ryan did. I prayed, “Lord, wouldn’t it be nice to show this kid a miracle in front of the whole nation.” Everybody knew he’s lived with AIDS for five and half years. He’d been in and out of hospitals. He’s been blind twice. I mean, this kid had a heck of a life, why couldn’t he be given a miracle? When he died, it was like, “Why? What more could we have done?”

When he died I was really taken aback. I started questioning my faith. I think that’s normal. I mean, I started wondering if there really is a god? How does God let things like this happen? I see people around me all the time asking that question. “Why do young kids have to die?” I mean, anybody really, lots of other good people have died too. So then I started trying to find reasons.

After awhile it started to get clearer. “Look at all the things he’s done in his short life. He’s educated so many people. Wouldn’t we all like to say we had accomplished as much as this kid did in only 18 years?!”

I tell the kids that when I get to heaven I’m going to be angry. I hope the Lord forgives me for being angry, but I’m going to say, “Why did you have to take Ryan?” Then I say, “You know what I think he’s going to say? He’s going to say, ‘You know what, he was only supposed to live three to six months. I gave you five and a half years and you’re still not happy.’” Maybe I got a miracle. We had quite a few Christmases that we never thought we were going to have.

I didn’t want to lose my faith. I was mad at my faith. I was mad at my church. I was mad at my religion. I was mad at God. But I wanted to find a reason. I eventually started seeing things around me like the Ryan White Care Act and Elton John go through rehabilitation and get off of drugs and alcohol and I thought, “My goodness, Ryan touched more lives than I ever knew. Perhaps those people got miracles and they don’t know it.”

Michael (Jackson) was a real good friend of Ryan’s. When Michael called Ryan in the hospital once, Elton said, “With all the money that’s in this room, we can’t bring this boy back to life.” That was a real big realization to Elton . . . that he had all the money in the world, he had everything he could ever buy, but he could not buy his health. That’s why he entered rehab. When Michael called me after Ryan died, just to see how I was doing, I said, “I’m doing OK but what made you and Ryan so close?” When Michael would call, they would have long phone conversations. He said, “You know, most people can’t get over the awe of who I am, so nobody can ever act normal around me. Ryan knew how I wanted to be treated, because that’s how he wanted to be treated. I can’t trust anyone because everybody always wants something from me.” He could tell Ryan anything and Ryan wasn’t going to go blab it or tell it, you know. “I promised Ryan he could be in my next video and now that he’s gone I want to do a video for him.” He made a video called Going Too Soon, which was about Ryan.

It’s hard to talk about death. I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t really think he was going to die. I can remember him saying what he wanted to be buried in. I told him I really didn’t want to talk about it but he went on anyway, “I know you like me in a tux but I don’t want to buried in one.” I said, “OK, Ryan, what do you want?” I mean, it’s like, I’d say anything to get this conversation over with. He says, “I want to be buried in my Guess jeans, my red T&C (Town and Country) shirt, my Air Jordan’s and my Jean jacket.” He pauses, as I’m fading out, then says, “You know how people are when they’re lying in a casket and everybody is watching their eyes to see if their eyes move? I want my sunglasses on and I want to be buried in my boxer shorts.” “Your boxer shorts?” I exclaimed. He’d just switched from wearing briefs to boxer shorts and really liked them. “Why your boxer shorts?” I deadpanned. “You know that hernia I got? I want to make sure I . . .” He had a hernia that they couldn’t operate on because he had no platelets. “I want to make sure I’m comfortable.” And I thought, ‘Well, if you’re dead, I mean . . .’ “OK, just talk,” Ryan said. “You know, as a mom.”

One of the best things after Ryan died was when people talked about him. I think it was also good for me to get involved in something I truly believed in, doing something, instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. That’s the easy way to go . . . feeling sorry for yourself. People didn’t let me, although that’s what I probably would have done if not pushed. But people were always talking about Ryan and people still do and that kind of keeps him alive within me.

More inspiring people at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

It’s No Big Deal

GoodGrief_180WFrom Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

“What are you so upset about? It was only your ex-husband.”

“Come on, get over it. You can always get another cat.”

“Hey, you hadn’t seen your friend in years anyway.”

“They were drunk half the time. Who cares?”

“It’s not the same as being married. You just lived together.”

“You only knew them for two months!”

“Weren’t they old? They lived a long life.”

“No, you can’t come to the funeral. You aren’t part of the family.”

These are just some of the comments that people hear, and a small sampling of how their grief is disregarded, after they’ve had a friend, acquaintance or family member die. The losses they have experienced don’t match the images of who and what is acceptable to grieve in our society. And it’s not just others that cause such pain. We are often our harshest critics. We internalize the conscious and unconscious messages we are fed daily and are often confused with the intensity of our emotions and reactions after a death, when our head is telling us we should not be feeling much at all.

Our response to any kind of loss, especially from death, is our bodies natural reaction to the human condition, even though we analyze it, distrust it and, at times, find it hard to believe.

“Why am I getting so upset over my ex-husband’s death? We never got along and I’ve been better off without him.”

No matter what the relationship was like, it was a relationship. There were attachments, habits and shared time that will always effect one’s life. For some, the never-ending hope of reconciliation will have died as well.

“It was only a cat. I know it’s not the same as a person.”

Your cat or pet was a living creature. We can grow just as accustomed and fond of an animal as we can with a human. The same kind of attachments and memories occur.

“We were best friends during high school, but that was ages ago.”

Some friends stay with us forever, whether we see them often or rarely at all. The time we spend together can leave us with lasting imprints, influences and memories, as well as regrets, bitterness or pain.

“This is crazy. His drinking ruined our family and our lives. He was mean and abusive. Why is his death so hard? I thought I’d be relieved.”

Even abusive, negative relationships can cause unexpected mixtures of emotion. Though we may have separated ourselves from the individual, and learned how to fend for ourselves or are still in contact, there is usually some deep feelings of loss over the years that they were not the parent or partner we had wished for. The realization that they have died can also awaken the fact that the opportunity for them to change or be different has died as well.

“We were only housemates. It wasn’t like we were married or anything.”

Whether as a friend, lover, roommate or relative, living in the same household is one of the most intense experiences in our lives. It’s where we learn how to interact with others and provides daily reminders of our differences and similarities. Whether two people living in the same household have their arrangement sanctioned or accepted by others does nothing to diminish the powerful lessons and connections that develop. We are intimately shaped, both good and bad, by those with whom we live.

“I just met them two months ago, but I can’t stop thinking about them.”

The length or duration of a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that it is of greater or lesser importance or impact. Some people we’ve known for years, yet have little connection, do not effect us deeply upon their passing, whereas others we’ve just met leave lasting footprints. The grief and mourning that result from the loss of a recent or longtime acquaintance is VERY individual and unique to that person, as are our needs in grieving their loss.

“Grandma was eighty-five years old. I knew she wouldn’t last forever, but it feels so sudden. I loved her so much.”

The longer someone you know lives, the harder it can be to accept the reality of their death. Even though you may have had time to prepare and say, and do what you needed or wanted to, it can still seem like it came too soon. There are times when no matter the person’s age, you want them to stay forever and their death is devastating.

“They never accepted me. I should have known this would happen.”

You have a right and a human need to attend the funeral and/or memorial of your partner. Your relationship with the deceased was between you and them, not their family or friends. How your relationship was seen or accepted by others is important in your adjusting to the loss, but not dependent upon it.

There are times when those you expect to be of help are not always able or willing to do so. For some, it is too painful. Others find it impossible to stop judging long enough to listen. When you can’t attend the funeral or memorial, due to the deceased’s family, distance or other circumstances, create your own ritual or ceremony of leave-taking. Invite those who will be present with you and share your loss.

Relationships with people and other living creatures are what make us human. It is normal to question, criticize and judge our selves after someone in our life has died. It is also normal to feel pain, frustration, anger, sadness, relief and confusion.

If you don’t get the kind of support and acknowledgment you need from family, friends or colleagues, then find it elsewhere. Don’t minimize, trivialize or try to forget your loss. Find ways to acknowledge, respect, honor and validate your experience and the reactions that have resulted.

Further reading and support at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Losing A Pet

They say cats have nine lives. I wish that were true, but the facts contradict such myths. Everything dies, including the felines, dogs and other creatures we choose to care for and have in our lives. Most animals tend to have a shorter life span than humans, thereby increasing the chances that our beloved friend will stop breathing long before we leave our mortal bodies behind.

images

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

To add insult to injury; is the often callous or dismissive attitude and comments of others when we’ve lost a non-human friend. People don’t always understand the emotional impact losing a pet can have. They disregard our pain when we try to talk about the cat or dog we’ve had for fifteen years getting sick and needing constant attention. They scoff at our tears, when our affectionate tabby is lost or killed by a car. They belittle our sense of shock and disbelief when the dog we loved and cared for tenderly for the last eight years suddenly dies.

Yet, for some, pets, animals, and companions (which ever you prefer to use as a label for non-human creatures) are some of the closest and endearing connections we experience in life. Being responsible for any of the varied creatures placed in our care takes time, attention and devotion. And, just like people, such continued time and attention creates attachment, bonding and lasting imprints.

The love and commitment we give and receive from our animal friends, in some respects, are quite unique from that of other relationships. Sometimes, they are the only living beings that love us unconditionally and don’t argue, judge or hurt us in any way. They also provide forms of communication beyond words. There desire to be touched, patted, combed, and talked to, provide warmth, softness, connection, meaning and continual reminders of enjoying the present moment.

A lady I recently met was shocked when told by her veterinarian that their beloved kitten had cancer and should be euthanized. She refused and is currently seeking a vet that will give Hospice-type services for her cat, and provide whatever is needed to make sure her family friend dies comfortably at home enjoying as many precious moments that remain. Like human beings, there should be an alternative for animals beyond that of further treatments or mercy killing.

Losing a pet also awakens other losses we’ve experienced; whether recent or long ago. When a cat of ours, named Sushi, was killed by a dog a couple of years ago, I unexpectedly found myself remembering my childhood collie, named Pinky and the grandmother I used to visit when Pinky was still alive.

The loss of your animal friend should be treated the same as that of a human. Talk about the loss; share your pictures, memories, tears and grief. Walk, run, swim, workout, hike, bicycle, dance, play or listen to music a couple of times s a week by yourself or with a friend.

Breathing exercises, visualizations, relaxation, stretching, meditation, affirmations and yoga have all been shown to relieve stress, anxiety and positive endorphins to help the body heal.

Relax in a hot tub, hot bath, shower, sauna or sweat lodge and let the emotions seep from your pores and evaporate with the steam.

Put together a collage, altar, memory book, picture frame, treasure box, video or CD of your cat, dog, bird, horse or rabbit.

Have a service or gathering. Memorials and/or funerals; provide validation of your relationship with that being; acknowledgment that their life was of value; and societal affirmation that all living creatures are to be honored and respected.

If you’ve lost an animal friend, at any time in your life and would like some additional support (outside your circle of family and friends) contact the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals), an empathetic therapist or your local grief-counseling center.

Further reading at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

The Know-It-All Priest

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbA dumbfounding excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

After years of losing students to Master Toshiba, the local priest of another Buddhist sect could take it no more. He walked to Master Toshiba’s training hall and challenged The Master.

“You have many students,” the priest said, with his ego hanging on his sleeve. “What do you have that I don’t have?”

“I’m much better to look at,” replied Master Toshiba.

The ensuing laughter further infuriated the priest.

“Seriously,” he exclaimed. “You are not the wisest, nor have you studied the longest. Your words are shallow and your promises cheap.”

Some of the students became agitated at the priest’s belligerence, but Master Toshiba motioned for them to be still.

“Which of my words have been shallow and to what promises are you referring?”

“Well . . . well . . . ” the flustered priest hesitated and then said, “Everything! But, if you want specifics . . . here’s one.” He raised his finger, pointed it at The Master, and mockingly said, ‘You get out of it what you put into it.’ “That’s not Buddhism, that’s just common sense and even that isn’t always true. Sometimes, you don’t get anything out of it, no matter how much you put into it.”

“Is that like your teaching?” Master Toshiba inquired. “You’ve put everything into it and your meditation hall is empty.”

“How dare you? I still have students. There may not be as many as you have, but mine are tried and true. They practice day and night. Their understanding deepens and enlightenment is theirs to have and to hold.”

“Since when did it become possible to own enlightenment? How do you hold it? Where is it?”

“You know what I mean. Quit turning my words around and trying to make me look like a fool.”

“There is no need to try,” replied Master Toshiba. “Your actions today have revealed your true self.”

The priest was suddenly overcome with shame. He kneeled down.

“And as far as promises,” Master Toshiba continued. “There is no such thing. The only promise I’ve ever made is that I can make no promises.” She paused. “Well, there was one promise. When I was young I promised my parents I’d never leave them, but I did. Oh yeah, there was also that time . . . anyway, as far as our spiritual practice, the only promise I can make is that the sun will rise tomorrow, that we have all been born and that we will all die.”

“I beg you Master.” The priest prostrated himself on the floor. “I am not worthy, but I ask humbly that I be allowed to be your student.”

“You probably aren’t worthy,” The Master replied “and I doubt you’ll learn anything, but you’re welcome to join us.” The priest stood and bowed repeatedly. “Go see Brother Peacock next door. They’re leaving on holiday tomorrow. Tell him I said you could tag along. Come see me upon your return.”

“Thank you. Thank you.” The priest continued bowing as he walked backwards. “I will see you as soon as we return.”

“Promise?”

More upside down wisdom at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Louder Than A Jet Engine

Louder Than A Jet Engine

There is no escaping from sound 100,000 times louder than a jet engine.

But if Big Oil gets its way, whales and dolphins from Delaware to Florida will soon be forced to flee such noise, or die trying.

Oil and gas companies want permission to use seismic airgun testing along the Atlantic Coast. This technology blasts sound waves powerful enough to detect oil deposits for offshore drilling – and destroy marine life in the process.

dolphin_copy

The government’s own reports estimate that at least 138,500 dolphins and whales – including endangered species like the North Atlantic right whale and blue whale – would be injured or killed if oil and gas companies are allowed to go forward.

The Obama administration is poised to give the green light to this project as early as this month. But we can prevent this torture if we act quickly. Just last fall, massive public outcry stopped seismic testing off the California coast. We can do the same at the national level now.

Tell the Obama administration to protect whales, dolphins and other creatures from injury and death by rejecting all seismic testing proposals off the Atlantic Coast.

The amount of seismic testing oil and gas companies want to perform is staggering. Airguns would fire every ten seconds for at least eight years in an area of ocean twice the size of California.

And this testing wouldn’t just impact marine mammals. It drives sea turtles away from their nesting grounds and destroys fish eggs, damaging East Coast fisheries.

Even when companies finish testing, the threat to the oceans and marine life won’t be over. If the companies find oil deposits, the area will be filled with new offshore oil rigs instead of airguns.

Send a message to the Obama administration telling the agencies responsible to prevent seismic testing and keep our coastlines safe for all marine life.

We’ve had some huge breakthroughs for whales and dolphins in the past year, including stopping seismic testing in the Pacific and creating a path to protection for the Bering Sea canyons. And we’ll be working on this issue throughout the summer and beyond as part of our campaign to save marine mammals.

Together, we are making real change for the millions of whales and dolphins that are in danger from sonar, seismic testing and whaling.

Thanks for speaking up for our beautiful blue planet.

For the whales,

Phil Kline
Greenpeace Senior Oceans Campaigner

Help End Hunger

Dear Gabriel,

Imagine the heartbreak of parents who know their child might be the next to die. In many areas of the world, parents do not even name their babies because their likelihood of surviving infancy is so low.

AfricaChild200x160

We can create a world where NO child dies of hunger.

Despite major progress in stopping the spread of killer diseases, hunger is still the root cause of millions of childhood deaths. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and globalized, hunger will reach unprecedented levels. The good news is that hunger is preventable and we have access to the solution. The quest to end hunger simply requires arming people with a sustainable source of food and income.

So let’s commit to making a difference for these children and their parents. It will only take you 5 seconds to sign the petition but you can save a child’s life.

Sharanya_newsletterThank you for taking action,

Sharanya P.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 4

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 4

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time: Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 4

(Picture of Lennie appears on screen.)

GODDESS: Lennie. Fifty-six. Poet. Divorced. Children and grandchildren. Terminal lung cancer.

(Goddess turns project off and lights on. There is a knock at the door.)

GODDESS: Come on in Lennie. It’s open.

(Lennie enters.)

LENNIE: Hey, how you doing Goddess?

(Goddess walks up and gives Lennie a hug. They both stand back holding one another at arms length.)

GODDESS: Can’t complain . . . life, death, fear, hope . . . living on the edge like usual. You’re looking quite beautiful, even sexy I might add, considering your condition and all.

LENNIE: You’re so sweet. I try. People look up to me, you know. I can’t let them down.

(Goddess walks with her arm around Lennie to couch.)

GODDESS: Let me get you some Ginseng tea. It’s supposed to help your immune system stop me from spreading.

(Goddess walks over to the bar and brings back a cup of tea, hands it to Lennie and sits down next to her.)

GODDESS (continued): People look up to you? Why?

LENNIE: I don’t know. I guess I’m a good listener and they know I really care. I try to love people for who they are and show compassion for all living things.

(Lennie looks at flowers and plants.)

LENNIE: (continued) What beautiful flowers!

GODDESS: Thanks. I love being surrounded by life. (Pause.) When you said you love people, did you mean your family and friends?

LENNIE: Yeah.

GODDESS: Do you feel the same towards strangers?

LENNIE: I guess so. Yesterday, I was waiting for the bus when a lady said I had ‘kind eyes’ and started telling me all about her family and how it was falling apart.

GODDESS: Could you love anybody then, even me?

LENNIE: (Surprised. She takes Goddess’s hand.) Of course! It’s not your fault you act the way you do. It’s your nature. I know it’s nothing personal. You’re a biological abnormality that can’t sit still. Blaming you would be like yelling at the sun to not rise. It’s your karma.

GODDESS: And it’s your karma to die?

LENNIE: Of course. I deserve it.

GODDESS: You deserve it?! I thought everyone loved you.

LENNIE: They do, but . . . something happened once . . . I’ve never told my kids. I’m sure it’s why you came.

(Lennie sadly turns away from Goddess)

GODDESS: Tell me. Please.

LENNIE: I can’t. It’s disgusting. I’ll take it to my grave before I tell anyone.

GODDESS: (Laughs) Hey . . . that’s not a problem. I’m going with you, remember?!

LENNIE: (Looks around and sighs deeply.) Oh yeah. Well . . . how do I start? (Pause.) My father died suddenly from a heart attack when I was thirty. I hadn’t seen him for twelve years. The day I turned eighteen I left home and never turned back. He was a real Jekyl and Hyde. People in town thought he was a saint or something, but when he got home from work and started drinking . . . If my brother or I tried to stop him from hitting Mama he’d slam us against the wall and call us foul names, especially my brother. I don’t see how he survived. He ran away when he was seventeen. (Pause) We’ve never talked about it.

GODDESS: You’ve never told anyone?

LENNIE: No. We were taught to keep things in the family and he swore he’d kill us if we didn’t. But that’s not the worst.

GODDESS: What could be worse?

LENNIE: What I . . . I did . . . in front of his family.

GODDESS: What?!

LENNIE: I didn’t know I was going to do it. (Pause) You sure you want to hear this?

GODDESS: I’m dying to hear!

LENNIE: Well . . . everyone gathered at the graveside for my Dad’s funeral, with the family up front, you know how it is. (Goddess nods with understanding.) I was standing between my mother and brother, with my grandparents next to them. The priest was praying and everyone had their heads bowed. Suddenly, I felt a burning in my belly. It worked its way up my gut, got stuck in my throat, then spewed out of my mouth in a guttural scream, ‘I hate you! You bastard. I hate you! You’re a filthy Jack ass! Thank God you’re dead!’ (Pause) Then I leaned forward and spit on his grave. (Pause)

GODDESS: That’s it?! You think that is why I came?! (Goddess starts laughing.) Lennie Lennie Lennie. Listen. I had no idea. I didn’t know anything about it. How could I be your karma?

LENNIE: I just figured . . .

GODDESS:You just figured that since you’re so sweet, compassionate and understanding that you weren’t capable of such hatred. It doesn’t fit your self-image, does it?

LENNIE: No. I spit on his grave . . . in front of the priest . . . his parents!

GODDESS: Honey, that’s nothing. Sounds like you could have killed him yourself and it would have been justifiable homicide! He put you and your family through a living hell and believe me, that’s far worse than dying.

LENNIE: But he was my father!

GODDESS: I don’t care if he was the Pope. Nobody has the right to treat another human being like that, let alone his own daughter.(Pause) How about practicing some of that love and compassion on yourself, or don’t you think you’re worthy?

LENNIE: (Crying) I guess so, but . . .

GODDESS: Shhhhh. No buts about it. You are creative, beautiful, a talented poet, caring mother and extraordinary human being. The feelings towards your father are just as real and valid as your compassion.

LENNIE: OK OK. It’s useless to argue with someone who is killing me.

GODDESS: There you go. Now get out of here. You don’t have much time.

(Whispering to herself.) Damn. Now they’ve got me saying that time thing!

(Goddess turns back to Lennie and gives her a hug.)

LENNIE: Thanks. I hope I don’t see you for awhile.

(Lennie waves as she closes the door.)

GODDESS: (Crosses her arms and shakes her head side to side.) Sometimes this job stinks. But hey . . . it’s my karma.

(Goddess turns off lights and starts singing to way to the projector the tune of “Wouldn’t It Be Lovely” from My Fair Lady.)

GODDESS: All I want is a body somewhere, far away from the mammogram’s stare, with one lump here and one lump there, oh wouldn’t it be lovely. Lots of cells for me to eat, lots of tissue for me to meet. Warm hands, warm face, warm feet, oh wouldn’t it be lovely.

(Goddess turns off projector with picture of Lennie.)

Goddess of Cancer Continued – Tomorrow Scene 5

Tag Cloud