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
This was incredibly beautiful and moving. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Scott. It wasn't easy to write, but I'm glad I did it.Delete
Beautiful piece, even though the subject is so tough. Can't thank you enough forReplyDelete
this web site of yours. I grow so much from it.
You're very welcome, Mike.Delete
A very beautiful piece, JMD. I'm sorry for your loss and glad that she left you with a vision of life, love and the human soul in all its glory.ReplyDelete
My wife's grandfather miraculously survived pancreatic cancer and died a decade later from emphysema. Here's to a world where everyone threatened by this horrible disease gets their miracle.
Do you know if the book will be available digitally?
Thank you, David. What a blessing that your wife's grandmother faced p.c. and got another ten years. There's a miracle for you.Delete
I believe the book will be available digitally, although I'm not sure when.
OK, great. If it's available digitally I'll buy it that way, and if not I'll get it in print. It's great to be able to buy something you'll enjoy and make a difference in the world all at the same time.Delete
And yes, it was indeed a miracle! I had the privilege of knowing him for a few years before he passed.
Beautiful and moving. The 8 Percent project is a wonderful way to honor Beatrice and the millions affected by p.c. The comic book world is so often rife with controversy and negativity. It's great to see a positive project like this come together.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Erik. I'm honored to be a part of the 8 PERCENT project. Please spread the word about it, if you can.Delete
Such a beautiful piece and such a fantastic benefit. Thanks for sharing this here.ReplyDelete
You're very welcome, Drew.Delete
"I don't quite know how to capture this in words..."ReplyDelete
You did just fine, J.M.
Thank you, Ken.Delete