The Silence of the Dying

Thanks to Adam for linking this powerful and distressing piece by Sara Douglass.

In case you didn't know, fantasy author Sara Douglass has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. In this post, she speaks out about her illness and the thought of facing death.

Here's an extract:

Modern attention spans for the chronically ill are horribly short, probably because chronic or terminal illness in today’s society is horribly tedious. Tedious, because we are all so uncomfortable with it.

Instead, too often, it is up to the sick and the dying to comfort the well and the un-dying.
Just take a moment to think about this, take a moment to see if you have ever experienced it yourself. The dying — sweet, stoic, silent — comforting those who are to be left behind. I know I experienced it when first I was diagnosed with cancer. I found myself in the completely unreal situation of having, over and over, to comfort people when I told them I had cancer. In the end I just stopped telling people, because almost invariably I was placed into the bizarre situation of comforting the well by saying everything would be all right (which, of course, it won’t, but that’s what people needed to hear to make them comfortable about me again).


The dying have been indoctrinated from a very young age into this sweet, stoic and silent state. They earn praise for always being ‘positive’ and ‘bright’ and ‘never complaining’. Perhaps they are bright and positive and uncomplaining, but I am certain they lay in their beds with their fear and anger and grief and pain and frustration completely repressed while modern expectation forces them, the dying, to comfort the living.

I am sick of this tawdry game. I am sick to death of comforting people when all I want is to be comforted. I am sick of being abandoned by people for months on end only to be told eventually that ‘I knew they were thinking of me, right?’ I am sick of being exhorted to be silent and sweet and stoic. I know I face a long and lonely death and no, I don’t think I should just accept that.

I don’t think I should keep silent about it.

You can read Douglass' moving post here.

If you have been blessed and have never had anyone near you suffer from cancer or another terminal illness, then after reading this article you'll understand what drove me to agree to work on Speculative Horizons on the condition that part of the proceeds go to cancer research. . .

My thoughts are with her. . .

5 commentaires:

Wise Bass said...

That was an amazing post by Douglass. I'm glad that she's still fighting even with death so close.

It makes me grateful, in a way, that my grandfather didn't have a long, drawn-out, debilitating battle when he got cancer (unlike my step-grandmother). He died quickly (and peacefully), but not before we managed to spend some time with him, and before he was able to get his affairs in order.

Jebus said...

Yeah Sara's great, she's such a lovely person and really appreciates her fans. I and a group of others used to moderate on her bulletin board and she thanked all us Wreakers of Havoc at the start of one of her books.

Such a shame about the cancer and the article is quite eye opening.

Parao said...

My mother died because of a brain-cancer. An horrible illness, which suck her life day by day, until words where banished and, in the final months, even movement (paralisis).
I know perfectly what Mrs. Douglass is talking about. I was the only one who could stand by her side, during the ten month. Neither my sister, nor my father could stand the situation. The others... few, two, three strong and kind persons.
Illnesses are, maybe, the only things which remember us that life isn't forever and that, no, life *is not* Disneyland, with all its shopping centers, new cars, iPads and everything beautiful with everyone smiling and laughing.
Life is good, but not so good.

We are, I guess, too surrounded by our comforts. And along the way, many of us lost a part of their humanity: capacity to give to another person exactly what he needs. We prefer to avoid illness, 'cause, as every hard thing in this world, you don't know how to act. The border between right or wrong, when someone dying of cancer looks in your eyes, is too thin, too difficult to understand for everyone that don't want to abase himself and open to the sorrow and pain of the patient.

I read on Sara Douglass blog, that the next novel will be the last one. I've never read anything by her (in Italy she's not been translated), but since years I'm following her with curiosity.
Now, with the Kindle, I guess I'm near to read her (in english, of course). Which of her novels would you recommend me?

Gabriele C. said...

I'd try the Crucible trilogy, I think it's her strongest work. I read the first Wayfarer trilogy shortly after it came out - it was ok, but pretty much 80ies standard fun. Don't know how her latest books are.

Elfy said...

I'd like to thank you and Adam for drawing attention to that post by Sara Douglass, Pat.
I lost both my parents in the past 5 years to illness (my father due to a combination of cancer and emphyscema and my mother to renal failure), both knew they were dying and it's hard for the family, we sometimes miss that it's even harder to face your own mortality and not show your loved ones how scared you really are.
Thankyou again.