I was very fortunate to have been raised by teachers for a couple of reasons. The first is that they instilled a deep curiosity and intellectual drive within me that continues to this day. The second is that they taught at Quaker schools, which instilled a sense of community and social justice.
I went to Westtown School, which is located just outside of Phiadelphia and without any doubt it was the most important formative experience of my life. I simply would not be the person I am without that experience.
Not only did I receive a wonderful education, but the ideals of membership in a community and the ethics and morality of social justice are very much a part of who I am. I am also fascinated by the fact that though I spent four years at this school, now some 28 years later the lessons I learned and people I met are as fresh as ever.
Most recently the school sent an email to our class to inform us of the death of a classmate. She was a writer, a talented one that I remember from my time with her, and she died of breast cancer. I also believe that she is the first of our class to die. Maybe not, but I think so.
I did not know her well at school, but in such a tight community it was impossible to not know everyone in one way or another. I also did not know her after we left Westtown. Though we both became writers, we simply did not cross paths. I kind of thought that we would at some point, she lived in Maine and I in New Hampshire, but it never happened.
And yet, I have been deeply saddened by her passing. I suppose there is nothing original or profound in that, but I have been somewhat surprised. Maybe it is the fact that she dies of cancer and I am a cancer survivor. Maybe it's because it points to how my peers and I are aging. Maybe it's because I thought I would be the first. Maybe it's just because I have never thought of her as anything but a kind and gentle person. It would have been very nice to have gotten to know her better, I believe.
I hate this fact of life, that we die. I accept it as part of the human condition, but why? She was married and had a wonderful life and was well loved, so why her, why now, why anyone? What is it about existence that it is so terminal?
Big questions to be sure. And ones that I think about more now that my own parents have aged are are dealing with age related issues. The temporal nature of life is a bugger.
Last night I had a nightmare. My cancer had come back and I was going to die. That frightened me, but not as much as the thought of what would happen to my children. Their mother is a mess and they are at an age where they need some guidance in their lives. Who would provide that? Who would take care of them? Who would help them become the people they were intended to be?
Writing this now brings me to the point of tears. They are very real and true questions. As a cancer survivor my classmate is not the only person I know who has died of cancer. All of them were loved and many had children. That loss of a parent is a horrible thing and to be the parent who loses their children in that way is so horrible as well. It is just so very painful, and yet we plug away, we keep moving. Why?
Another big question. The easy answer is that as short as life is it can also be long and always filled with beautiful moments. Sunsets, love, and so on are the cliche and obvious reasons.
Causes James Buchanan Supports
Expanding health care in the US, ending war as a viable tool of foreign policy, and issues related to social justice in general.