Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Man With The Cancer Tattoo


There's this New Age thing about living each day as if you knew it would be your last.

If I knew I would die tomorrow, I would get stupid drunk.  Then I'd fall into my car, looking for trouble.  I might vomit on a cop.  I might lose all my money to a whore.  I'd certainly curse a lot.  I absolutely wouldn't want to be judged by what I did in the shadow of my life sentence.

Jay Lake was made of better stuff.

When Jay learned he had terminal cancer, he resolved to fit a lifetime's accomplishment into what little time he had.  He wrote like a motherfucker.  He blogged about his fight with cancer.  He created a lapel pin to give to all the nominees for the Campbell Award.  (And you will pry mine from my cold, dead fingers aeons after Charlton Heston says, "Take my guns.  Please!")  He gave money to struggling new writers.  He supported new writers who didn't need money but did need to know that somebody  cared.  He did many, many positive things that you'll have to run a web search to discover and more that you'll never know about.

He had a tattoo on the back of his head reading IF YOU CAN READ THIS, I HAVE CANCER AGAIN.  I have a photo somewhere of him and Marianne flaunting their bare pates. And grinning, grinning, grinning.  Because they knew a harsh truth the rest of us do not and were able to laugh in the shadow of death.  Marianne got better.  Jay did not.

I met him.  I liked him.  I hated the fact that he was dying of cancer almost as much as he did.

And now he's dead.

I will not curse the universe for this.  After the first death there is no more. Also, it's not what HE would have done.

But if you want to mark the man's passing, go out today and do that good thing you've been meaning to get around to someday.

Jay would approve.

Photo Credit: Joseph E. Lake, Jr. / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0



Sonia Lyris said...

We talked a lot about the cancer thing, the dying thing, the how-this-sucks thing. He did curse from time to time. The thing he wouldn't do, no matter what, was say "it's not fair." Wouldn't go there. No way.

I'll keep an eye out for ways to help others connect the dots between their dreams of creation and the making of them. That's one of the things he did for me.

I miss him awful bad.

otherdeb said...

Beautifully said, Michael!

I only knew him online, but am much richer for the experience.