24 November 2015
The Rev. Gail Brown, 63, is dying.
The knowledge that her life is drawing to a close has given Brown a unique perspective that she wants to share. “Be thankful,” she said. “We may not have big bank accounts and fancy homes and top-notch jobs, but we’ve still got a lot to be thankful for, and thankfulness helps us to stop being so self-centered. Love; share; extend a helping hand. A smile can save somebody’s life.”
Sitting on her sofa in her South Boston Rd. home, surrounded by sparkling purple Christmas ornaments she insisted on pulling out before Thanksgiving, she shared the bad news the doctors gave her.
Diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer, Brown said she has three to six months before her health takes a significant turn for the worse, and eight months or a little more before she dies.
“They don’t really know how long I have,” Brown admitted sadly. “The doctor said, ‘This is a hard call, but you won’t make it. It’s going to take you.’”
What does it feel like to hear something like that? “I already knew it,” Brown said. “But I think it helped me to accept it more. It helped me to face up to it. It wasn’t easy, but it was something I had to deal with. I had said I didn’t want to know,” she reflected, then paused for a moment. “But I did want to know.”
But there is a beauty in death, Brown said. “Death has always been scary to people,” she mused. “It’s the end; it’s dark and dreary. But it’s not. You’re at peace, at rest. You don’t have to worry about these old bodies anymore, getting sick, shutting down. You don’t have to worry about hurt and pain. It’s beautiful. You can just breathe.”
When death comes, Brown imagined, “You see everything in a different light. It’s like feeling the sun rays on your face. It’s like looking out the window the morning after it snowed all night – it’s so clear and fresh and brand new.”
In fact, death puts a different perspective on day-to-day human relations, said Brown. “I don’t want me or anyone else to have regrets. I want to be able to tell my friends and family, ‘I love you. If I’ve done anything to hurt you or cause you any harm, please forgive me.’ I wanted time to make peace with me, with my actions.”