During the summer of 1992, I participated in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project at the University of Massachusetts. This six week course was designed to help teachers become better writers and better teachers of writers. Charlie Moran, professor of English and teacher extraordinaire, directed the Writing Project. I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned that summer–about myself as a writer, about how to read and respond to others’ writing pieces, about how to do writing workshop in a classroom, about how to teach teachers to do the same. Thanks to Charlie, I became a better writer and better teacher…both of kids and adults.
Recently, Charlie was diagnosed with Acute Myleoid Leukemia, and was told he had very little time left without treatment. From then to now he has steadily felt weaker. On April 14 he & Kay traveled to Mass General Hospital (MGH) to start a week-long clinical trial for a new chemo drug but he soon realized that the best thing for him to do was to go home and live out the days he had left in peace and joy with family and friends and gorgeous spring days in the back yard.
His family started a blog on Caring Bridge. His wife and two kids took turns keeping us in the loop as he struggled through his time at MGH and headed home. Then, to our surprise, Charlie began posting. This came the other day and I emailed him to ask if I could share it here. It made so much sense. Charlie, even now, is teaching all of us.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
This makes me wonder again–should I be raging? The arguments against seem to me to outweigh the arguments for. Thomas’ poem was written when he was 39, a young man’s poem; I have lived twice that, a life packed with love, friendship, and peak experiences too many to note. So much has been given, it would seem deeply inappropriate to ask for more at this point. I do know how to fight, Gary—my father gave me boxing lessons in our garage on weekends so that I could win more than my share of the inevitable playground fights; and you and I have fought the pain of the last stages of marathons. But we chose those battles.
I have seen what fighting this incurable disease would look like, after a week at MGH, much of it spent in the ICU, chasing what might be two or three more weeks but coming still to the inevitable end. The cost-benefit analysis then was clear—weeks of debilitating treatment followed by weeks of marginal improvement. And still the inevitable end, postponed by a few weeks at most. I know there will be times when I doubt the choice I have made, and those will be hard times. But I’m on my fourth week of home hospice care today, and not being driven to MHG for a second eight-day sequence of tests, chemo, and the experimental drug. I guess finally one does bargain with the devil. So far, I think I’ve done well.
Yes, Charlie has done SO well. I can only hope that if the day comes when I am faced with a similar decision I do as well. Keep him and his family in your prayers as the end gets closer.
On a less serious note, I survived eight sea turtle lessons and finished with Declan’s preschool class this morning. Please note the “scientific turtles” (green) and the “artistic turtles (multi-colored).
Declan’s class with their sea turtles