The Heartbreak of Breathing

The Heartbreak of Breathing
By Dustin Fisher
The Heartbreak of Breathing is a poem my father wrote toward the end of his days. I thought about this poem recently and I don’t know why. I asked my mom if she had saved a copy of it. She didn’t remember the poem at all. She didn’t even remember the title or the existence of it. Neither did my sister. No one seemed to remember this incredibly moving poem that my father had written. And I certainly couldn’t find it. All I was left with was the title, very vividly, invading my thoughts. “The Heartbreak of Breathing.”

“You call this fucking pudding? It looks like somebody with a sinus infection sneezed in a fucking bowl!”
That is George Kalinowski. He’s been here in the Cancer Ward at Fox Chase Hospital for the last two weeks. I bring him his lunch everyday and he seems to have taken a liking to me. The frequency at which he swears is usually an indication of what kind of mood he’s in. It appears as though he is in a good mood today.
“You guys have this 35 million dollar ma-fucking-chine that can zap tumors through my skin while I’m wearing a wool sweater, but you can’t get me a decent cup of pudding? What kind of a fucking doctor are you?”

“I’m not a doctor, Mr. Kalinowski.” He knew by now that I wasn’t a doctor, but he liked to tease me.
“For Christ sake, stop calling me Mister. I know you’re just being polite, but save it for the old fucks in this place. I ain’t like the rest of these geezers. Call me George or K Dizzle or Dickhead if you really want, but save that Mister crap for those guys out there. And don’t worry about the pudding, I know you can’t do shit about it.”
Actually, getting him some different pudding is one of the few things I could do for him. I took this job as a nurse’s assistant at the Cancer Ward of Fox Chase Hospital in Philadelphia for the summer. I had actually spent a good amount of time here last year when my father was sick and dying of lung cancer. He would come in daily for his radiation therapy. Mom or one of his brothers would generally take him here but I would go with them once in a while. I wanted to volunteer my time to try to help with other patients who were going through the same experiences and feelings that my father went through and to honor his memory. But more than that, it was so that I could remember him myself.
They don’t really ask me to do a lot around here, mostly because there’s not much I can do. I spend most of the days wheeling patients from floor to floor and bringing them their food. I have bonded with a lot of them in here over the past month. Mostly I will take time to talk with them, to get to know them. This is something that the doctors and interns don’t have as much time to do and the patients are grateful for it. Sadly, this is usually the end of the road for most of them. It was for my father, though I didn’t know it at the time.
Today is Saturday. It’s my day off, but I wanted to come in to see George. I know his whole family is coming to see him and he wanted me to meet them. I had already met his mother. She comes by often, but the rest of the family was flying in from Buffalo. I got there just before noon, which is when he normally had his lunch, and therefore when we normally had our conversations. He appears to be in good spirits today also. I could see his room when I walked in and there were about 15 people of all ages laughing and yelling loudly. Apparently, they all curse like he does, despite the presence of a boy and girl who couldn’t have been any older than 5. The girl was sitting on the bed with him and kept grabbing at his face, to which he would tickle her back. It was the happiest I’ve seen him. I went back to check in with my supervisor Judy, when Dr. Sedgley pulled me aside. He had news. Bad news. Apparently, the tumor in George’s kidney had permeated through the outer wall and metathesized to his colon. His colon would begin to fail and his digestive tract would in turn begin to break down. If we are unable to stop this, George could be dead before the end of the month. Dr. Sedgley told me this because he knew I had become friendly with George and he wanted me to know before I went in his room. He didn’t know yet. And it isn’t my job to tell him. Yes, George could be dead in a few weeks time, but that news would have to wait. Today is George’s 23rd birthday and he wants to open his presents.

It isn’t the breathing that hurts.
It’s that I forgot why I started.
Why should I bother? What’s my motivation?
When do I get to stop?
Because the moment you find out that you will stop,
It hardly seems worth the time.

These words were in my father’s poem. I was reminded of them standing at the reception counter in the wake of Dr. Sedgley’s comments. My lip curled up a bit and I could feel my heart pounding through my chest. I had really hoped George would be the success story that I’d be able to take back to college with me. There are plenty of patients we have that are beating the disease, but just once I’d like to see one of the terminal patients turn around. I’d like to be a part of one of those miracles. And I’d like George to be a part of one too.
“Hey Dustin, get your ass over here!”
George had seen me. I had to compose myself and put my mask back on. I did not want to be the one to tell him the news and I especially didn’t want to do it involuntarily with his whole family there.
“Happy birthday, K Dizzle.”
“Hey, you’re in a good mood. Something’s got to be wrong. Wait, wait, don’t tell me… I have cancer.”
His family laughed. He was a great sport about his condition. And apparently, he was very perceptive, whether jokingly or not. I thought now would be a good time to give him my present.
“Aw, D. You didn’t have to get me anything. Whoa! Nice fucking wrap job. Did you do this yourself? I like the way that you twisted the ends of the paper and put tape around it like a giant fucking tootsie roll.”
When he was finished poking fun at my wrap job and opened it, he laughed so hard that he started to cough.
“No way! A Nestle Pudding 6-pack. Look at you, guy… Fucking A.”
His laugh had actually made him wince in pain. I could see it. I asked if he was alright, but I knew he’d be determined to try to hide the pain from his family so he told me to sac up and stop being such a Nancy. But I knew that his mother could see the pain. It was a mutual understanding between them that she wouldn’t ask him and he wouldn’t tell her. He didn’t want her to worry and she didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. Mrs. Kalinowski shared her concerns with me a few days ago. This new news would devastate her.
Visiting hours were over and the party was put on hold until tomorrow. But the party would be different tomorrow. There would be an undertone of sorrow. The laughter would be replaced with solemn I love yous. The arm punching would turn into long hugs. And the game of I got your nose may be the last that he would play with little Paige. I’ve been to that party.
He said goodbye to Paige. She asked him when she would see him again.
“Oh, it might be a little while. I’m a very busy guy.”
“No, you’re not silly.”
“Oh yes I am.” He tickled her again.
“No you’re not.”
“Yes I am. I have to go make the wind.”
“No you don’t.”
“Well, who do you think makes the wind?”
“God makes the wind, silly.”
“Well, sometimes he needs help. There’s a lot of wind you know.”
Paige giggled as George reached out to give her one last Great Big Squeezy Bear Hug as he called them. The party packed up and began to head out. It was great to see George have such a great time with his family. He is truly an amazing guy. I feel sadness for the way that tomorrow will be for him.

I exist only in my relationship to those around me.
I am only sorry I will not be here
to breathe for you.

I didn’t see George again until Monday when I brought him his lunch. His morale had definitely taken a hit over the weekend.
“Hey D. Thanks a lot.”
He avoided eye contact with me. I told him that I had heard the news. I told him how sorry I was.
“Hey, don’t worry about it man. It ain’t your fault.”
The cursing had stopped. We talked again about how he had also lost his father to cancer only three years ago. He told me about the day he found out. He was on his way home from work already when his mother had called him to ask what he was doing. It struck him as odd that she would do that when his routine was the same everyday. When he arrived home, his whole family was there. They had the same solemn look on their face that I imagine they had yesterday. His brother had flown in from Austin. As soon as he saw him they both started crying. His father died of colon cancer about 6 months later. This story sounded somewhat familiar. I shared my story with him.
I guess it was about noon when mom called. She never called me in the daytime. She said that what we had feared the worst had come true. I didn’t know what we feared the worst. She said that the pain dad was feeling in his shoulder was lung cancer. I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t even really know what lung cancer was. I knew it wasn’t good, but on a scale of cancers, I had no idea. People beat cancer all the time. I didn’t know any percentages, but the success stories are well documented, even to people who don’t seek them out. I wasn’t worried.
I told my boss about the call. He told me just to go. Take whatever time I needed to. It was the kind of moment where you realize that however overbearing and unreasonable a person may be at times, there are some things that remind you they have a soul after all. My colleague, Geoff, always kept me laughing. As tactless as he is, not even he could come up with anything to joke about. And so he abstained, as it was not his nature to show emotion, or what I’m sure he’d call “weakness.” I was also disturbingly emotionless. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to pass up this prime opportunity to leave work early and take as long as I needed to up there. Hell, I figured I could pretend to grieve for up to a week before I would really start to be questioned.
And so I jumped in my car and headed the 2 hours north up 95. It was a rather quick drive as there wasn’t much traffic on the road in the mid-afternoon hours. Lots of thoughts ran through my head. What is lung cancer? Who is going to be there? How long can I really take off work? Am I wrong for exploiting this news about my dad to take paid leave from my crappy job? Should I be crying? Will everybody else be crying? Honestly, it never even occurred to me to think about how long dad might live. I figured he’d at least have a few years worth of fight in him. Again, I knew nothing about lung cancer.
I was about 30 minutes away when I realized that I better start to find a way to cry. I couldn’t walk up there and look like I hadn’t been crying. I tried to find a country radio station that would hopefully be playing some sappy music. In recent history, I had only been able to get really emotional over fake things. Things that didn’t matter. Songs would make me cry. Movies would make me cry. Certain TV commercials would even make me cry. But the news of my father contracting lung cancer was not enough to bring me to tears. I tried to think of him dying. That started to work. But I would get distracted by other thoughts. I wondered if there was a game on that night. Had I set my DVR to record Survivor? Would I be able to watch Survivor up there? Maybe I could record it.
I remember sitting in my car in my parent’s parking lot. I wasn’t crying. I felt like I had faked it enough to give the appearance that I had been for some of the past few hours. That was enough for me at that point. I was tired of trying to fake it and I forgot to bring my eye drops. I walked through the door I’d walked through thousands of times before.
On my way up the stairs, I started to wonder what it was going to be like. Who would be there? Would my sister have her dog here? I missed that dog. The first person I saw was my sister. She wasn’t currently crying, but her eyes were red and her face was void of all blood flow. I could barely get out the beginning of “Hey –” when my throat collapsed in on me. I couldn’t speak. My bottom lip began to dance to my changing emotions. The hallway went black. My sister embraced me and I began to cough. My stomach made its own embrace as if to cry along with me. I could not believe that a person could experience such things without any external stimuli. My nose turned red and snot ran all over my sister’s shirt. She held my head. I had reawakened the emotions that everyone had gotten under control probably about an hour ago.
The sobbing was relentless. I regained my sight but fell to the floor. My mom and sister helped me up. I didn’t even know how long mom was there. I couldn’t feel my right arm anymore. My eyes begun to stick shut when I would blink. I was hot but shaking. I had contracted a fever in under a minute. I believe it was my aunt who came over to me with water. It helped bring me out of my drunken, sobbing daze for a moment. My eyes focused on my father who was sitting at the table and hadn’t gotten up. He was the only one in the house not crying. He told me not to worry about him. That we would fight it and we would beat the cancer. The confidence in his voice did not change my mood. In fact, the sobbing grew stronger as I reached to hug him in his chair. I had still not said a word.

This pain is a new pain.
Not the pain in my lungs -
The pain on the face of my son.
The face of my daughter.
The face of my wife.
The face of my mother.
This is a pain
A new pain
Deeper than any tumor can reach.
How can I breathe?

Now I remember these words. I really wish I could remember the whole poem. George and I talked for another hour. It’s harder to have hope when you don’t believe in fate. His mother had not taken the news well. She had lost her husband to the same disease just over three years ago. She had stayed well passed the party yesterday and cried in his bed for hours. She was determined to beat it. I could sense that George was not feeling as strong.
On Wednesday of that week, we started George on daily radiation treatment to supplement the chemo he had been on for the last few weeks. I walked him down to the treatment center in his wheelchair. George did not want to be here. He wanted to be home, especially now. Unfortunately, his mother could not afford the time to dedicate to taking him into the hospital everyday and he had gotten too weak to do it on his own. He was starting to get angry at his disease. He thought about forgoing the treatments and just living at home in pain for the rest of his days. He was already in a good deal of pain. How much time was all this buying him? And was it worth the price? Chemo is not a perfect drug. It does not seek out cancer cells and kill them. We use the pictures that we get from the cat-scans of his body and inject the chemo into where we guess the tumor is based on that. The chemo then kills all the cells that it comes in contact with. This includes the perfectly healthy cells around the tumor. So in effect, George was already dying.
“Hey D. I want you to know you’ve been a hell of a friend to me these past couple weeks. I don’t know that I’d have been able to survive the boredom of this place without you.”
His words meant a lot to me. They were the reason that I was happy to have taken this job back home for the summer. I knew I couldn’t help out in a lot of other ways, but I had hoped to help raise the spirits of the patients we had in here. I waited outside the room while they lay George down and strapped him into his bed to undergo the treatment. I could hear the doctors tell him to relax and take a deep breath.

Just breathe.
Take a deep breath.
Breathe in and out.
They tell you to breathe,
But they don’t tell you how.

I remember hearing those words so often when bringing my father to his radiation treatment. It didn’t strike me as odd then. I had spent a lot of time in here last summer with my father. It was a room very unfortunately familiar. I could remember my father’s routine. I would wheel him to the reception counter and check in. He would sit there with his cane in hand and talk to anybody that would walk by. I would wheel him back to his changing room, where he would put on what he called his “radiation party toga,” which was really just a standard hospital gown. I’d then wheel him outside and we would wait. In the beginning, we would talk. We’d talk about anything. Baseball, Seinfeld, politics. We would rarely bring up his mortality. But after a month’s time, his medication made it impossible for him to hold a conversation. He’d mostly just stare at the wall. People would walk by the reception counter and say hi to him. He usually wouldn’t respond. When he did, his words were a jumbled mess by the time they came out of his mouth. He was unable to watch television or follow baseball. He stopped shaving. He just waited for the doctor to tell him what to do.
My mother, sister and I had planned a week-long vacation that I no longer wanted to take. George needed me there for him. These next couple weeks would certainly be tough on him and his family. I was worried what things would be like when I returned. I’ve seen conditions deteriorate rapidly when presented with the kind of news he had gotten last week.
I returned back to work on Monday to find that George had lost almost 20 pounds already. Dr. Sedgley had mentioned that there would be an immediate anticipated decrease in his weight and his appetite after the radiation had began. This would plateau as long as George kept eating.
“So how the fuck was Carolina? This place is falling apart without you, doc. The magazines in the waiting room suck. Who the fuck carries Highlights anymore? Do they even make new issues of those things or are they from like 1983? And now all the food tastes like shit. Actually, everything tastes like radiation. You ever eat radiation?”
No, I don’t think –
“Yeah, well I don’t recommend it. It tastes like shit. At least now I can’t blame it on the cheap ass pudding.”
Well, George was in good spirits today. That was a surprise and a relief. I asked him how the treatments were going and he told me he was mostly pissed off at the time they took out of his day. He wasn’t convinced they were helping any. They didn’t really help his father out either. Mine either.
Mrs. Kalinowski came in today. We had a chance to talk while George was waiting for his radiation. She shared her concerns with me that George had lost so much weight. I of course told her about the plateau theory, but she worries that he’s getting too weak to eat. She also told me that he had stopped taking his pain killers. He claims they took away his thoughts. George wanted to keep his thoughts. Unfortunately, the pain makes it harder to fight and harder to want to fight. This was a scary sacrifice that George was making and one that may speak of his desire to beat the cancer. She asked if I believed in a God. I didn’t know what to tell her. Despite my father’s passing, I couldn’t convince myself to become spiritual. Mrs. K believes that she saw God on her husband’s dying day. She said that for the first time in weeks, he was coherent and knew who everybody was. He had awoken from the deep haze he had been in for the last month and said hello to all these recent strangers. He was his old self for an hour or two during that visit. An hour after everyone had left, he passed away holding her hand in his hospital bed. She is convinced it was God that brought him back to say goodbye. This was another story that rang a familiar bell.
My grandfather had also passed away from lung cancer when I was still in high school. I did not go to visit him on the day that he passed, but I remember my father coming back home saying how his dad was coherent and able to have a conversation, however brief, for the first time in a month. It was just like he knew who everybody was again, just like Mrs. K said. And I was in the same chair in the living room about two hours later when we had gotten the phone call that he had passed. It was and still is the only time I’ve ever seen my father cry.
Was it God? Was it some sort of karmic being bringing him back to make peace with his family? I believe it was just the body giving one last surge of energy before it exhausted itself.

Do not cry for me,
This was not the point.
I will instead tip my hat to you,
That you may live your life as you should.
Breathing in and breathing out.

I asked George about his medication. He said he didn’t want to be remembered like his father would be. His father’s final 3 months were torture to the rest of his family.
“He couldn’t focus on anything. He couldn’t have a conversation. He wasn’t alive. He was a mass of bone and skin in the shell of a person who used to throw the football to me and take me down to skip rocks at Maplewood Park. I don’t want to be remembered like that. It’s worth the pain. I can handle the pain.”
I was at school out in Iowa when my father passed away. I was not there for the last month of his life. When I left him, it seemed like everything was fine. He was still responsive, however short his attention span was. On the Saturday that I left, he had a brain aneurism which caused him to have these mini-seizures. These mini-seizures came at the rate of one about every 8 minutes. I could not see them for myself, but the pain in my sister’s voice trying to explain them to me was torture enough. He was admitted here to Fox Chase and had to transfer to Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital because they specialized in brain activity. By the time the week was over and he was able to go back home, he was not the same person. He could barely move on his own. My mother and sister kept me posted on his condition. No matter what they said, they would inevitably end in tears that I could feel over the phone. They were happy that I didn’t have to see him in his condition. They were happy that I would not have to remember this part of his life. I suppose now that I look back, I had been fooling myself into believing that I would see him again. I had convinced myself that he would be able to make it to Thanksgiving at least, if not Christmas. It shows how little I knew about the disease. I would occasionally get to speak to my father. He was only able to speak one word at a time, if at all. I would tell him how my day was going just hoping he at least had the capacity to listen, though he couldn’t retort. He would mumble a drawn out “yeah” and “uh” on occasion just to let me know he was there. One time during the conversation, he muttered the word “fadin” and gave the phone back to my sister. That was the last word I ever heard from him.
I wasn’t there the day my father died. He passed away in our living room with my mom and Uncle George holding his hands. They say you relive your entire life in the last few minutes of it. My father spent the last few minutes of his life mumbling. The hospice nurse said that the mumbling is an indication that he had a lot of regrets. My father died with a lot of regrets. My biggest fear is that I will do the same. If I die tomorrow, I’ll be mumbling just the same as he did. What good have I brought to this world? What have I accomplished that will live on after I die? I don’t know what it will take, but all I want is validation for my existence here. I just don’t want to mumble. I don’t want to mumble.
This would be the first time I would cry with George. Here I was with a terminally ill patient who just dropped 20 pounds in a week and he’s the strong one trying to help me through my problems. I guess that’s just how it is with these terminally ill patients. I’ve seen it so often. They are the strong ones while the family and friends are doing most of the crying.

This life was not lived for me.
It was lived for those around me.
For I am only as I am for you.
Who would I be if not in relation to you?

Over the next three weeks, George’s condition had gotten much worse. He had lost another 40 pounds. He lost his appetite for food and with that, his appetite for the fight. His mother had asked us to stop the radiation and chemo at the request of George. He wanted his thoughts back. He knew his family would be here soon. He probably wanted to have his last surge of energy.
Mrs. Kalinowski was already there. She hasn’t left these walls for the last 3 days. We talked about him. George won a state science fair when he was in grade school for a project on the pollution in self-contained lakes and ponds. He was able to meet the president because of that project. He was also a state finalist in the pole vault back in high school. He once got arrested for trying to order food from a drive-thru on his bike. He kept screaming inside McDonalds demanding equal rights for the less fortunate who could not afford the luxury of a gas-powered vehicle. Mrs. K laughed a little through her 3-day constant stream of tears. I enjoyed hearing these stories about George. It brought George back to life. The Native Indians believe in two deaths. They believe that the death of the body is only just that, the death of the body. The spirit will live on as long as we tell stories about the deceased. As long as they exist in our memory, the spirit will still be alive.
“I just wanted a fucking McFlurry. I wasn’t gonna hurt anybody.”
George had awoken. It was the first time in two weeks that he had cursed. His mother tried to speak but the words were cut off by her tears. I don’t know if they were tears of joy or sadness, but I imagine if there was ever a time to cry both at the same time, this would be it.
“Hey man. Where you been?”
I told him I’ve been out trying to make a decent cup of pudding. He laughed a weak laugh. It was a sad picture. His face had almost taken the shape of his skull already. His legs were two broom sticks with feet at the end of them.
“Georgy, you know I love you very much.”
“I love you too, ma. You know that. Tell everybody else how much I love them and how much I’ll miss them. And tell Paige I’ll be watching her grow up from my high perch upstairs.”
“You can tell them yourself. They’ll be here in a few hours.”
“Just tell them ma. You still have my letter?”
“Georgey, just hold on for –”
“Ma, I love you. I do. Take care of yourself. I’ll tell dad you say hello.”
George died at 11:17am on a Saturday. His family showed up at about 1:00pm. There were a lot of tears shed from his family, but they had agreed he was in a better place now. I overheard Paige ask her father what had happened.
“I’m sorry sweetie, but Uncle Georgy passed away.”
“Oh… Well, good. Now he can help God make the wind.”

And may your legacy last
Long after you’ve passed.
And may you never experience this heartbreak.
The heartbreak of breathing.

The funeral service was held the following Saturday. It rained on us but I almost feel like it should have. As sad as it was, it was almost a relief to those close to him. His mother asked me to stand with her as the ceremony took place. She saw a lot of George in me. I had also brought my mother and sister. They had met George through me and wanted to pay their respects. Everyone I had met from his party were there, as were a lot of others from further away. Paige came up to Mrs. K and said very matter of factly that she was sorry that her son died. This brought on a new wave of tears. The bagpipes began. The bagpipes always make me cry. The rest of the ceremony was as expected. The preacher talked about how young he was and that sometimes we just don’t understand God’s way.
I remembered the last funeral I had gone to. It was raining then too. It was the funeral for my friend, Joe’s father. I had no idea how to act or what to say. All I could think of was to tell him that I was there for him. My father passed away just over a year later. I now understood what he was going through. And I know how my friends just had no idea what to say. I know how awkward it was for them and so when they tell me that they don’t know what to say, I tell them that I know. And I just appreciate that they feel the desire to say anything or even nothing at all. I still call Joe every Father’s Day.
The ceremony had ended and the casket was being lowered into the earth. This is always an emotional picture because it is the last that people will see of their beloved’s body. At this point, Mrs. Kalinowski was so emotionally exhausted, she was at the end of her tears. She thanked me for being such a great friend to George during his final days here on earth. She insisted on staying in touch with me and wants to get together at least once a month to tell stories about George and George Sr. and my father. I told her I’d like that. It would keep their spiritual self alive. She gave me a letter that George had written in his last few weeks. She had not read it, but said that George wanted me to have it. I was so moved by the gesture on his part to have even thought to write me a letter, even if it was just to thank me.

Dear Dustin,

If you’re reading this, then that’s probably some serious bad news for me. I’m sure mom is still crying and I hope you’re not. I know you’re not happy with your life right now, but from what I know of you, you have a lot to offer people. You are a great person and you have a lot to say. Maybe if you can get all those thoughts and truths out of your heart before the end you won’t need to mumble, just remember and smile. Think of the good you’ve done here and all the lives you’ve touched in your years on this earth. Your dad sounds like a great man. Maybe he was mumbling a one-liner he had saved up for just that occasion. Maybe he was mumbling to himself how great it was to have lived his life and have the family and friends that were a part of his journey. Maybe your dad was mumbling that he was proud of his son and loved him. Maybe he mumbled how happy he was that his son was out in the world doing things he never did and didn’t have to see him in the condition he was in.

These words froze me. They stood my hair up on my skin and shivered through my body. I have been searching for validation of my existence, just like my father. I have been looking for a reason not to mumble. It’s as my father said, we exist only in our relationship to others. I had somehow in my interactions with George back at Fox Chase pieced together the poem that my father had written toward the end of his days. Does this poem validate my life? Certainly not. But through this poem, I have remembered an important thing that I have lost along the way. It may not be that I need to accomplish all these goals that I have set for myself. It’s how we affect others that matters. I will continue to meet with Mrs. Kalinowski and I will try to get my father’s poem published so that others may experience this. Is it really word for word the exact same poem? Probably not. To be honest, I’m not even sure if it was a poem. It could have been the subject of an e-mail or four words scribbled on a napkin. But they are as much his as they are mine. And I’m happy to let this experience serve as validation for myself, as well as for him. I love you, dad.


The Heartbreak of Breathing

Just breathe.
Take a deep breath.
Breathe in and out.
They tell you to breathe,
But they don’t tell you how.

It isn’t the breathing that hurts.
It’s that I forgot why I started.
Why should I bother? What’s my motivation?
When do I get to stop?
Because the moment you find out that you will stop,
It hardly seems worth the time.

This pain is a new pain.
Not the pain in my lungs -
The pain on the face of my son.
The face of my daughter.
The face of my wife.
The face of my mother.
This is a pain
A new pain
Deeper than any tumor can reach.
How can I breathe?

This life was not lived for me.
It was lived for those around me.
For I am only as I am for you.
Who would I be if not in relation to you?
I exist only in my relationship to those around me.
I am only sorry I will not be here
to breathe for you.

Do not cry for me,
This was not the point.
I will instead tip my hat to you,
That you may live your life as you always have.
Breathing in and breathing out.

And may your legacy last
Long after you’ve passed.
And may you never experience this heartbreak.
The heartbreak of breathing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>