Learning to Live

Silver Weeping Birch Tree

I Learnt to Live, by Sofia Kioroglou

Before I got cancer
I cavilled at everything
Caterwauled and spat out
Unmentionable adjectives

Before I got cancer
My children hated me
I was controlling and unbearable
A helicopter hovering over them the whole time

Before I got cancer,
I didn’t know I had a present
But now that I am suffering 
I cherish the moment and the now

Before I got cancer
I didn’t know I had a future
I sucked each potential out of its viability
Before I got cancer, I was dead


​Copyright 2018; reblogged with permission

A new poetry book by Sofia is available at :https://payhip.com/b/zK7h


Sofia understands the paradox of life and death – the threat of death that exposes the deadness that already exists, and the catapulting to life that the diagnosis of cancer can give. One would think that the harsher reality would be living (or dying) with cancer. But the poem ends with the harsher commentary on life before cancer.

Before I got cancer
I didn’t know I had a future
I sucked each potential out of its viability
Before I got cancer, I was dead

She exposes something of what it takes to come to life under the shadow of a potential death sentence. I can relate to this in my own experience (31 years ago this month) and I can actually look back with some fondness at the gift of that season with cancer, or as Sofia put it, realizing that “I didn’t know I had a present.” I love the play of words where present offers both gift and presence.

And I can relate to the life recently lost to cancer of a friend who’s artistic output in her last years was so fruitful but not frenetic. She offered herself and her gifts freely and generously.

A number of years ago my neighbour’s weeping birch tree (image above) started casting off more seeds that I had ever seen before; coincidentally a friend of mine was visiting who is an agricultural expert. When he saw the weeping birch he commented that the tree was actually dying, counterintuitive to such fruitfulness. This prodigiousness is what these kind of trees do before they die. It is a knowing without cognition: the dying tree weeps off thousands of seeds before it’s life cycle ends.

I might add therefore,

Before I had cancer, I didn’t know I could be so fruitful


Oh, I’m still dying (and so are you), just not at the hastened pace of cancer. In the mean time, cast seeds wherever you may be.


Since I posted this, a friend sent me this clip of Jane Marczewski – stage-name “Nightbirde” -who sang her original song “It’s Okay” at “Americas Got Talent”.  

Written in the last year of her life (with a 2% chance of living beyond her 6 month prognosis), she said:

You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.

For more from Nightbirde see: “God is on the Bathroom Floor; if you can’ see Him, look lower.”

About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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