I’ve been composing this post in my head since April 22 when I learned Jody Schoger was entering home hospice care. Occasionally the persistence of magical thinking overcomes me and much like I spent months in 2008 (and 2009) believing doctors mixed up my medical records with someone else’s, I thought maybe after a rest Jody might feel better. I guess that’s why even though I knew in every rational way that it was coming, her death on May 18th took my breath away.
The world lost a force of nature, but thankfully her vast portfolio of advocacy work is immortal. I won’t begin to list it all here, but I posted a few links earlier. If you’d like to learn more, just google her. You won’t regret the time you spend reading her words.
I met Jody online when I was full-throttle blogging on Uneasy Pink. We met face-to-face in Washington DC in 2011 at an NBCC conference, adding a new depth to our pre-existing virtual bond. Breast cancer brought us together, but supporting Rachel Moro as she dealt with her metastatic cancer was our glue.
Jody and I started chatting online, almost daily. Sometimes we talked about the news, sometimes about spirituality; uproarious laughter was always on the agenda. But not long after Rachel died something inside me shifted. I needed to move on, as I explained when I shut down Uneasy Pink. Cancer had stolen so much from me already and no matter how hard I fought, my friends were still dying. So what was the point?
Feeling increasingly alienated from the burgeoning online community, feeling unable to express my opinions that sometimes ran counter to the current, and unsure of my place in the universe, I drifted apart from many of them. Including Jody.
When I found out Jody’s cancer had metastasized after 15 years (FIFTEEN YEARS!). I contacted her but realized that she was surrounded by a massive network of support. I didn’t want to tax her limited energy, so I mostly kept an eye on her from a distance.
I noticed that communication grew less frequent and when I saw the news about hospice on April 22, my need to contact her was urgent. I needed her to know that no matter what happened, those days of serious talks and peals of laughter meant the world to me.
She thanked me and said she felt the same way.
I felt her receding.
When I heard Jody had died, all I wanted to do was go to bed. But I was at my morning job. And when that ended, I needed to go to my afternoon job. After work, I had to take my son to an appointment. The family wanted dinner. I received a text from a college friend – her friend had just been diagnosed and she didn’t know what to do.
In Alicia’s touching obituary, she said Jody told her, “It’s up to you to take care of them now.”
Every step, every word, took Herculean effort, as if my seconds ticked a little more slowly than everyone else’s. I finally collapsed into bed and after hours of deep, dreamless sleep, I woke up and remembered that life goes on.
One of the greatest gifts Jody gave me was a reminder to keep perspective. Imagine going through what you’re going through, she’d say, if you were alone, poor, disenfranchised, uninsured, shut out of the health care system, living in a third world country.
In that vein, I ask you to remember – yes, the world lost a giant in the advocacy world. But her husband lost a wife. Her sister lost a sister. Nephew lost an aunt. And on and on. As fierce, passionate, smart, and kind as she was in her work, I believe she was even more so with the people she loved. Please, don’t let the breadth of the world’s loss overshadow the depth of theirs.
I will honor Jody by trying to keep my perspective clear. I will keep her example in mind — find work that you love and give it everything you’ve got.
Now, it’s time for me to get back to it. There’s always someone who can use my help.
I’ll leave you with a poem that reminds me of Jody. And one more picture from our DC trip.
Throw Yourself Like Seed
Miguel de Unamuno
Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
Sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
That brushes your heel as it turns going by,
The man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.
Now you are only giving food to that final pain
Which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
But to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
Is the work; start there, turn to the work.
Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
Don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
And do not let the past weigh down your motion.
Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
For life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
From your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.