I’ve contributed the introduction for a new anthology called 8 Percent. It’s a benefit book—featuring work by comic book legends Tom DeFalco, Ron Marz, Rick Leonardi and many others—that aims to raise money to fight pancreatic cancer. I’ve included the intro below, in the hopes that it will induce you to buy the book (which you can order right here). As you’ll see, this cause is very close to my heart.
My mother, Bea, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September of 2000. She was gone by January of 2001. The months between unfolded a process that was both harrowing and inspiring. As we watched the disease eat away at her, watched her literally shrink in her bed, it sometimes seemed as if the universe was erasing my mother and there was nothing we could do to stop it. Yet, miraculously, this process did something else: it peeled away the layers of personality—the self we reveal to the world—and exposed the shining soul beneath. I don’t know quite how to capture this in words, but one sad, and beautiful, memory springs to mind.
Bea spent her last months at my sister’s house, surrounded by loving family. I lived a hundred miles away so, once a week, I’d drive down, either alone or with my wife, and visit. On this particular day we were told that my mother had been resting, with her eyes closed, for more than twenty-four hours—and we’d reached a point where we weren’t sure those eyes would ever open again; but, as my wife and I sat beside Bea’s bed, taking comfort in just being near her—call it the spiritual equivalent of warming yourself by the fire—she stirred, opened her eyes and looked at us. For a moment she struggled to focus, to orient; then, it was clear, she saw us—and the look on her face was radiant, as if she was gazing at something astonishing and sacred. “What do you see?” my wife asked.
My mother didn’t respond for a moment, two, and then, in the sweetest, gentlest voice, said: “I see love.”
With all the pain and sorrow, there were so many moments of true grace in those months—and I’m grateful for every one of them. But then, inevitably, came death.
Understand: I believe completely in the continuity of the soul, in the existence of an afterlife and the reality of reincarnation. But once my mother was gone, once that beautiful, terrible dying process was over, I wasn’t pondering the image of Bea cradled in God’s arms, sailing through Eternity. No, I was missing her—and feeling the huge hole that had just been punched through all our lives. I remember thinking: Okay, it’s over now, we’ve made it through the process. Can I have my mother back please?
My heart tells me, with conviction, that Bea is fine. That her soul has continued on. That she’s happy in a new, and better, life. But that knowledge doesn’t change the fact that, even after all this time, I still miss her. There’s so much she could have seen and done, so much we could have shared. When I think of the delight Bea would have taken watching my son grow into amazing manhood, my daughter blossom into the remarkable young woman she is today, I feel a sorrow and regret that feels fresh, raw. But that’s what the business of being human is about, isn’t it? We root in our faith and belief, yet we allow ourselves to long and grieve.
Beatrice DeMatteis has been gone for thirteen years, but I hope this book you hold in your hands can, in some small way, contribute to a world where pancreatic cancer is eradicated. Where someone else can fill those thirteen years—and more—with the richness and joy of a life well- lived.
©copyright 2014 J.M. DeMatteis