And When I Die

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Did you ever watch the brilliant Showtime series “The Big C”? I watched it from the beginning and thought that the concept was really good (yet still my worst nightmare, actually), the writing was so sharp and smart, and the acting was straight up phenomenal. If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s the premise: Cathy Jamison, a somewhat reserved suburban wife, mother and teacher, is diagnosed with melanoma, which she chooses to keep from her family at first. The realization of the diagnosis forces her to really begin to live for the first time in her adult life. She begins acting strangely (which confuses her family), having found a new sense of freedom to express herself and do exactly whatever the hell she pleases. As the show progresses, she allows her family and some new friends to support her as she copes with her terminal diagnoses, and finds both humor and pathos in the many idiosyncratic relationships in her life – most significant being the one with her teenaged son.

The family dynamic – and the acting – is nothing short of fascinating: Laura Linney plays Cathy with such conviction that it’s easy to forget that she’s not really dying of cancer; Oliver Platt plays her husband Paul, and his on/off relationship with Cathy make for some mighty interesting scenes; John Benjamin Hickey is Cathy’s eccentric brother Sean, who ends up being of tremendous support for his sister, despite the fact that he can barely take care of himself; and Gabriel Basso plays the role of Adam, Cathy and Paul’s son – a normal teenaged boy going through some highly abnormal stuff. There’s a strong rotation of supporting characters that bring a lot to the table in terms of storyline, none more so than “Precious” star Gabourey Sidibe as Andrea, a former student of Cathy’s who ends up living with the Jamison family for a while and becoming as much a part of their clan as the rest of them.

The concept of this show has to be every mother’s worst nightmare, and the things that Cathy does to ensure that she will stay alive in her son’s heart long after she passes are truly heartbreaking. My favorite was the storage unit that she rented and filled with wrapped gifts for every birthday to come – there’s an episode where they sit together in there and open some of the presents, just so that she can see his reaction and tell him why she chose those gifts – that broke my bloody heart. Truth be told, this whole damn show pretty much does that for me…but it’s not all maudlin and downers, though….far from it. There is such tremendous joy in some of the things that Cathy does when she’s on her way out – and it must be liberating as hell to truly not give a shit about pleasing anyone but yourself and those that you love, don’t you think? There’s a scene where she decides to drive herself to the hospice place that she’s moving in to, despite the fact that she can hardly see…and much hilarity ensues when she is pulled over by the police and gives him more sass than most of us could muster at such a time. This scene is fantastic! 🙂

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The final season was only four episodes long, and I saved them to watch all at once – I watched two yesterday, and I will attempt to see the final two today. Despite the fact that we are watching a beloved character live her final moments in front of our eyes, the show is still mighty uplifting, and such a reminder of the important things in life. I find myself alternating between laughter and tears, often both at the same time, imagining how I would want to live out my final days on earth. First off, I hope I’m one hell of a lot older than Cathy is on this show – if there is a God and he’s (or she’s) as much of a fan of me as I am of him/her, he/she will allow me to live long enough to see my Wee One all growed up and self-sufficient in this world. As well, I want to live long enough to actually retire from the working world and spend my days doing only the things that please me….doesn’t that sound glorious? 🙂 I want my final days to be spent with my Wee One and the rest of the peeps that I love, doing the stuff that makes me happy – I want to be one of those folks who squeal into heaven on two wheels, hooting about what a hell of a ride that was. I’m such a fan of the Dylan Thomas poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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I want to be a rager, one who squeezes every last drop out of their time on earth, making sure that no stone is left unturned on the search for the meaning of life and the pursuit of happiness – and I want to be a person who always manages to find the happy and the fun, regardless of how bloody much life sometimes sucks. Don’t you? 🙂

If you could choose what your last meal would be, what would you pick? I think about this one a lot, for some stupid reason…and I find it hard to narrow it down. I would like it to include Moules Marinière (mmm….mussels…so yummy), pizza from New York, a bagel from New York, and maybe a slice of toast with peanut butter and raspberry jam. I would want to drink a Molson Canadian, of course, and if I could somehow rustle up an order of poutine, I’d be mighty happy with things. How about you? 🙂

 

If you’ve not seen ‘The Big C’, it’s not too late to catch up on DVD or streaming, and I highly suggest you do. This show, despite the subject matter of a good woman dying, is absolutely about LIVING, and the very significant differences between existing in life and truly living. I don’t know about you, but I’m a person who wants to live. Aren’t you? 🙂

xxx

 

PS: What song would you choose to have played at your funeral/wake? I want to have an Irish wake (I’m Scottish – close enough), and the song played will be the Irish Rovers ‘Wasn’t That a Party‘ – that would be perfection. 🙂

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