Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bad News at Home

Ode to an Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the marketplace;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsmen of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the route
Of lads that wore their honors out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

—A E Houseman

I learned last night that my friend Tamar Friedner has been diagnosed with terminal cancer in her liver, pancreas, and uterus. The disease is so advanced that the oncologist considers it inoperable and untreatable. I feel that I've been kicked in the gut by one of the horses of the Apocalypse, and this has cast a pall over the tri-communities of Scotland County (Dancing Rabbit, where Tamar has been a member for many years, Sandhill Farm, and Red Earth).

Two years ago, I lost another friend to pancreatic cancer—Geoph Kozeny. Geoph was my age and his life was cut short at 57. As much as a tragedy as that was, it is even more shocking with Tamar, who is only in her 30s. You can never imagine it, and it brought to mind the poignant A E Houseman poem I opened with. How can a life so full of promise and inquiry be ending so soon?

My partner, Ma'ikwe, moved to DR a year ago and is now in the midst of building a house there. She worked extensively with Tamar last winter in designing the house and Ma'ikwe asked her to serve as the general contractor on the project. My most recent conversations with Tamar have been to discuss design details about Ma'ikwe's house.

Tamar likes construction, yet she declined Ma'ikwe's offer in order to free up her summer to travel and explore options, which is what she did. In the spring she traveled to Vermont to explore a possible life partner relationship. When that didn't work out, she planned trips to other parts of the US, to see friends and assess other potentials, springboarding off her substantial foundation of sustainable living experience at DR.

While not an athlete per se, Tamar may reasonably be likened to a marathoner, who knows how to exert herself steadily—both physically and energetically—for the long haul. It is the ultimate tragedy that in Tamar's instance, the haul will not be long. All of her friends in Scotland County are stunned and sadder today. How can such a vital life force be so cruelly truncated? It is a time for grieving.

1 comment:

Caity McCardell said...

Laird, I'm saddened to hear the news about your friend, Tamar. Though I don't know her, it's so difficult to believe someone so young is sick with cancer. It gives new, deeper meaning to the word "unbelievable," as in, how on earth can this possibly be? I'm struck by the comment you made about her friends being stunned... and her life force being truncated. I trust you will join people together in the mourning process with your compassion and wisdom and community-focused heart. You and Ma'ikwe have been blessings in her life, I'm sure of it. My heart goes out to Tamar and to all her friends. With so much love, ~Caity