Unravel Cancer: Experiences with family battling cancer: February 2011
16:40 Michael Joseph Krupa (August 4th, 1968 - February 17th, 2011)
After a tremendous battle against cancer, and horrific pain, my brother Mickey passed away. Below is the eulogy I gave at his memorial services on February 21st, 2011. There was easily 150 people there, filling the room and beyond with love & good cheer, despite the sadness. I was lucky enough to hear stories about my brother that painted an even more prolific picture of him in my mind. Now, I can only hope that I can carry this bright spark in my heart to all those I meet, just like he did. He would have wanted me to live up to my potential in this way. Thank you, Mickey.
--Your Little Sister
First, a few announcements:
1) My mom sends her regrets that she was unable to come. But I know your attendance and outpouring of support for Mickey & his family would touch her greatly. Thank you for that.
2) I'd like to talk next about the sheet with markers at the table. I'm going to be travelling on a long trip, starting this summer. I asked Mickey what peaks he would climb if he was still able. We agreed on a list of 11 peaks, throughout the Pacific Coast of both North & South America. So, leave a message to Mickey on the sheet, and it'll be cut into 11 pieces. I'll leave a piece at the summit of each peak. As many of us can attest, sometimes the people that inspire us the most, are our next door neighbors, our football coaches, our siblings, or our ski instructors. So, thanks in advance for participating in this journey, dedicated to Mickey, and my luckiness to have him as brother.
From there, I'd like to add, as I grew older, I was able to appreciate my brother, Mickey. He was the one who wasn't afraid to break away, and carve out a really fantastic life for himself. He showed me how to live a life of joy, and share that with a community. This gave me confidence to strike out on my own path.
That's not to say every moment was great. There were many farts in the face, destroyed forts, and tickle torture sessions, to be sure.
But, no matter what, I feel the same as most of you feel: Mickey always wanted the best for everyone. I didn't just lose a brother; like you, I lost a friend. A friend that knew me my whole life!
As someone looking from outside this community in, I sincerely want to thank you all for being such great friends to Mickey, and encouraging him through this difficult battle, just like he encouraged you. Thanks for enriching his life, just like he enriched yours.
With that, I leave you with Mickey's last thoughts on Legacy. When asked what legacy meant to him, Mickey responded with these 4 things that make up a positive legacy. Thanks to Cassie for being scribe:
Legacy: What is legacy?
It means something left behind. What do you want that to be?
1. The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It seems so simple, but very few people live by that, though we all want to.
2. Have fun! People shouldn't deny themselves of having fun. Make sure it's a part of your life.
3. Be kind, both to people and animals. It's very important to be kind to animals.
4. Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken. Think of me in this regard, particularly the unbelievable climbing trips to Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. We're all afraid to die, but to do those kinds of things, you have to be willing to defy death.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
With that I'd like to propose a toast, “Long Live Mickey, in our hearts always.”
Labels: cancer death, grief, love, Mickey Krupa, siblings
Buddhists say change is the only constant in this world. They aren't kidding.
The Last Month
Almost two weeks ago, I lost my job. It wasn't exactly expected. However, looking back it really was the best thing that could have happened. For the moment, I'm financially ok, and now I have the time & space to be with myself, and be with my family.
That doesn't mean I'm not scared or worried about the future. I feel like I've just been cut loose from the doc, lost my moorings, and have no anchor to set down someplace else. In other words: floating.
But, the Universe works in mysterious ways. I was miserable at that job for the last year. Almost exactly a year ago to the day of the lay off, I was considering quitting. My desperation was so high, I prayed like a mad fool. I asked the Cosmos: How do you live a peaceful life? Why am I not living a peaceful life? How can I accomplish this?
Within days, I had my answer: go do the things you love. I asked myself: “Self, what do you love most?”. My reply: “Writing, backcountry skiing, rock climbing, traveling.” Within days of this conversation, (Please dear readers don't think I'm nutso crazy. All inspired artists have these conversations in their head. Picasso would concur.) the idea for my current project leapt into my brain, and my heart, like a bullet. The concept took my breath away, literally. Butterflies were in my stomach.
Amazingly, just like 1 year ago, I had a moment of desperation at work 2 weeks ago where I was on my knees crying & praying like a worshipper at the Wailing Wall. The very next day a flukey circumstance at my job lead to being let go several days later. Clearly there is a greater purpose for me. These things don't just happen randomly for no reason. Destiny is real, and it has conked me on the head twice in 12 months. I'm a slow learner...
Sadly, the removal of my stressful office job has not lead to a peaceful life. I was really hoping it would. Instead, the “high alert mode” of every change in temperature around my brother & mother has worn me down to the ground. With no high-adrenaline corporate overlord peering over my shoulder, pressing his boney finger into the back of my neck, inching my nose closer to the grindstone, I can finally feel just how worn out I really am. But, it's a good thing: now that I know this, and have time & space, I can work towards self-care & healing.
What I've learned so far: it's really hard for me to relax. Despite my best efforts at personal growth over the last 15 years, I'm still a pretty high-strung, Type-A person. Now's my chance to try on a new pair of shoes, in the stress department. Something fashionable, but comfortable enough to go long distances. No high heels.
So, getting let go was truly a blessing. In a matter of weeks, I'll be headed to Denver to assist my brother with a series of transitions. Things have gone quite haywire with his spouse, and now my oldest brother & I are blessed with the chance to pick up the slack. We will stick together, us 3 siblings, no matter what. It is an honor to serve my brother & my family in this way. No matter how gut-wrenching and painful it also is, it is an honor. It can be both at the same time. This is the joyous & mysterious wonder of Life.
The Future (for the moment)
In the meantime, I'm plowing ahead full-steam on this adventure-travel storytelling project extravaganza. The web design team I hired is top-notch, but also top-heart. Truly I'm blessed to know these people. They've taken the concept & boiled it into a kernel that is cool, hip, but also heart-felt. I can't wait to see the initial web pages!
A quick abstract to whet your appetite: the project will focus on transforming personal tragedies into hope & courage for others. Extraordinary stories from everyday people will be collected, and my travel journey along the way will be documented. There will be lots of alpine & rock climbing. Heck yes.
Also, I'm learning how to have no schedule, and arrive to places on time. I'm learning to set a more relaxed schedule for myself. I'm learning to feel all my feelings, now that I don't have to shove them in my pocket every time I walk into the office. I'm slowly accepting this weird but cool feeling that I never have to deal with all the people I worked with ever again. Ever. It's a strange feeling.
As promised to some, here is the other piece on grief I wrote for my writing class last fall. It was very popular, and my teacher's favorite out of all I wrote:
This Lonesome Wind
(after Terrance Hayes' “Wind In A Box”)
This blood. This loss. This lonesome wind. This canyon.
This rain. This wind blowing the rain. This mud.
This rain pelts my face. This rain pelts his body.
This rain pelts the cloudy glass of the window.
When will the rain end? When will we stand, stand
Together under the blue sky? This canyon.
This wall of mud. This flow. This destructive
Grace. At my feet, at my knees, my hips, my
Shoulders, your shoulders, your eyes, and-- over.
Until this moment, I didn't know you.
This box. This body in a box. This blood
In the body. This wind in a box.
This rain. This mud. This canyon fills in.
This box floats to the sky. Now I know you.
Labels: cancer, creative writing, family cancer, grief, job loss, loss, poetry, storytelling