Do the things you think you cannot

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

A Poem for Lucie


I have many hopes large and small for you.
One of them is this:
that when a friend of mine succumbs to cancer,
you will be the friend who does not.

I hope, and believe, that this hope is well aligned with your hopes for yourself.
The only part I do not take for granted,
for I have no doubt that you will live a life that is wonder filled and wondrous and long,
Is the friendship.

This is harder for me to predict, and what should happen is not so clear.
We move on; we lose contact with old acquaintances,
sometimes with regret, sometimes without;
sometimes this is simply an artifact of the inexorable passage of time.

I lost another friend, the wife of a friend,
And a woman not so very much older than I,
To pancreatic cancer.
I attended her memorial service just before heading to Arizona.

I remember telling you last February
That I had two friends with pancreatic cancer.
Now I have none.

Today, anyway, it seems to me that when I lose a friend to cancer,
The reassurance that another friend who has been through cancer
Still lives
Would be a comfort.

You could tell me what you had for breakfast, what you see out your window,
Anything at all would serve the simple, blessed purpose
Of letting me know
That you are somewhere, anywhere, alive.

I think of you in such a role because you have become
The youngest of my friends to survive a serious cancer
(older survivor friends can’t be counted on for this–they may die before I do),

And because you and I have already talked
About subjects not so different than this.

I know that you will outlive me by decades
And if someday news of my own death
(which is not, to the best of my knowledge, imminent, so don’t read anything between the lines)
Reaches you,

Maybe you’ll dance,
and maybe children will ask you why.