Early this morning I woke up, not knowing why. There was no story in my head desperate to get out. I was not hungry, or thirsty, and I certainly was not rested. When this happens, I tend to toss and turn trying to find a comfortable position to return to sleep, but after a few minutes it was clear to me this wasn’t going to work today.
I now know that about that time, my friend Jay Lake died of colon cancer. I do not write “was dying” because that’s been happening for the last 6 years. Jay’s battle has been a long one, and this morning, in the face of yet another perfect NW sunrise, he won.
Because Jay never gave up. He never stopped fighting. As pieces of his life drifted or were cut away, he faced each day with a smile, no matter how much it hurt him to do so.
This coming Friday would have been his 50th Birthday. For as long as I’ve known the man, he’s hosted his own birthday party at his favorite pizza restaurant. Even after his diagnosis, even after it hurt to even sit up straight, Jay was there, smiling, laughing, and giving of himself to others.
Well you know what?
I’m tired of cancer. I’ve had it up to here, and then some. My friend’s daughter has cancer, and she’s a year older than my son. My cousins had cancer as children. Several other friends had cancer this last year, and I run out of fingers very fast counting up the other survivors, and victims, in my life.
My friend Jay lived his life. He wanted to live more. He wanted to see his daughter graduate from high school. He wanted to see the next Hobbit movie. He wanted to write, to create, to live and laugh and love.
He wanted another Monday.
If you didn’t get a chance to know Jay in life, he leaves behind a staggering body of work, including a volume inspired by his cancer. For insight as to his fight, I highly recommend The Specific Gravity of Grief from Fairwood Press.
I want to tell you all about how Jay Lake inspired me. About how much being in the room with him mattered, especially when he’d come and seek you out to make sure you were having a good time. About how much I loved him, even when he was an ass.
I can never thank Jay enough for the impact he’s had on my life, although I have tried. But today I don’t have the words, so I’m falling back on some I wrote a few years ago about Jay and hope they’re enough.
If you want to honor my friend (and yours, hopefully), consider making a contribution in his name to:
Clayton Memorial Medical Fund
P.O. Box 5703
Portland, Oregon 97228