Death

I was Daddy’s little girl, his favorite, his precious one, his gold nugget.  He would tell anyone and everyone exactly that, in Vietnamese or Chinese.  It was embarrassing, especially in those teenage years, but I loved him too, even if he was often too nosey and annoying in so many other ways   Perhaps, it was because I was the child most like him, inquisitive and interested in the world and its people.  Perhaps, in me he saw all his own potential and dreams never realized – the intellectual, the fearless world traveler, the money-making professional.  In him, I saw a man who loved me beyond measure, who would spend hours in traffic driving me to and from the airport, high school competitions, study group sessions and the orthodontist, who believed that I could walk on the moon if I so chose,   Sometimes, I felt somewhat bad for my older brother and sister.  He loved them too, of course, but it just wasn’t the same.  (It was widely known, however, that my brother was my mother’s favorite and my sister was my grandmother and the uncles’ favorite, so I didn’t feel too bad.)  During one of our many car rides together, I asked my father, “Don’t you think that it is not right for you to love me more than Older Brother and Older Sister?”  He took his right hand off the steering wheel and held it out to me, its fingers outstretched.  “Look at my hand,” he ordered.  “You see my fingers?  Are they even?  No.  It isn’t possible to love your children the same.”  And that was that.  My father, the sage Chinese philosopher, had spoken.

Anyhow, knowing that he loved me as much as he did, I felt incredibly sorry for him as he stood helplessly by as I left for college three thousand miles away from home and then on my various adventures to far-flung places, the kind of impoverished places that we had risked our lives to escape decades earlier.  He was and is a worrier.  He would sit morosely watching me, shoulders drooped, as I packed for my next adventure, wringing his hands and running his fingers through his virtually non-existent hair.  Sure, I was nervous about my travels, somewhat afraid of what I might encounter, but mostly I was excited and enthralled by the promise and possibility of newness and all the things to be seen and experienced.  I was off to have fun, to grow and learn, to be changed and challenged; my father would be left behind at home, worrying.  His life centered around me and that center was leaving.  I swore then that I never wanted to be the one left behind, even if I were to have my own children, that I was and would forever be an intrepid traveler and adventurer.

It seems that with the latest bad scan results, I will now continue to make good on that promise I made myself so long ago.  I will be the one to die young.  I will be the first among so many family and friends to embark on the greatest adventure of all, the one that involves traveling beyond this life into the next.  Were the choice mine, I would stay longer, to watch my children grow up and to age with my husband, to bury my parents, to see more of this life that I have loved so much.  But the choice is not mine.  It has never been mine.

I am busily packing my bags now.  I am making my lists, leaving my instructions, putting in place my final estate planning documents.  I am making my final memories, saying my goodbyes, telling everyone I love them, writing my last words.  I am noting not just all the people I will miss but also the things of life I will miss.  I will miss the simple ritual of loading and unloading the dishwasher.  I will miss the smooth patina of my cast iron skillet, brought on by cooking countless meals.  I will miss making Costco runs.  I will miss watching TV with Josh.  I will miss taking my kids to school.  I will miss this life so very much.  They say that “Youth is wasted on the young.”  Now, as I approach my final days, I realize that health is wasted on the healthy and life is wasted on the living.  I never understood that until now as I prepare in earnest to leave this life.

Sleep no longer matters.  There will be time enough to sleep later as I race against time to make the flight, before the pain settles in, before my mind becomes addled by opiates.  Sadly this time it’s not just my father who sits helplessly by; it’s also Josh and my children, and my mother and siblings, cousins and so many friends.  I’m sorry for that.  I’m sorry to leave it to others to pick up the pieces.  It is a selfish act, perhaps unknowingly brought on by a selfish promise I made so long ago.  But believe me when I say that this is not of my conscious choosing.  I would stay if I could, but the choice is not mine.

I know that soon I will stand on the brink of something extraordinary, something greater than the human mind can understand.  I have far greater faith in the belief that there is more than this life than I do in a God.  I know that there is an afterlife with every fiber of my being.  I keep thinking about all the people who I have met and who have died since my diagnosis four years ago – Debbie, Carlyle, Rachel, Colleen, Chris, Jane, and so many more – and I realize that they taught me how to die, that I will follow in their footsteps, that they and others in my family wait to greet me and help me make the transition.  And that makes me happy.  When I was pregnant with Mia and nervous about giving birth, I consoled myself with the thought that billions of women have done the exactly the same thing for millennia and so there should be no reason why I couldn’t do it and do it well.  Similarly, I think now of all these people I know who have died and the billions of people who have died over the millennia and there is no reason why I cannot also embark on this rite of passage and do it well.

It is my absolute goal to die well, to die at peace, without regret for the life I have lived, proud and satisfied.  Why do we always assume that the ideal life is a long one?  Why do we assume that it is so awful to die young?   Could it be that the ones who die young are better off?  Could it be that death offers greater wisdom and joy that this life and those who die young are indeed lucky in their ability to attain those gifts sooner?  Perhaps, these are simply the musings of a person desperately trying to come to terms with her own early death.  And yet, I can assure you, that I feel no desperation  (other than the desperation to finish all the preparations before it’s too late), that if anything I feel almost total and complete peace.

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34 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Holly Han
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 03:06:33

    Oh Julie – you will not waste a second. How can we help?

    With my love,
    Holly

    Reply

  2. Cindy
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 05:22:36

    Peace be with you. You will never know how you have touched so many by being so brave to share your journey with us all.

    Reply

  3. Janie
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 06:49:56

    Julie,
    My heart is heavy to hear you speak of of death. Your philosophical reasoning leads me to believe you are at peace, my friend. For this, I am happy for you.
    Your wisdom and beautiful spirit has inspired me and reminded me to cherish each and every moment of this life.
    You once told me how you inspired to be a writer. I believe anything you inspired to do, you have done and done extraordinarily well!
    Your journey and life with cancer and without cancer has been epic!
    I have learned so much about life from you Julie!
    You have shared with us the challenges of a young girl from the very beginning of your life and opened my mind to the challenges that most people will never experience. And through it all, you flourished and prevailed and always took the high road in your zest for life and your drive to succeed at the very highest level in all you do.
    You have shared not only beautiful moments but the darkest moments and I applaud you for this! The lessons I have learned from you will never be forgotten.
    You are a gift Julie Yip-Williams!
    Thank you for sharing your life and friendship with me. I will cherish it forever.
    Much love to you!

    Reply

  4. Nilene Evans
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 07:18:03

    I hope your death is as loving and peaceful as possible. You have shared your journey with grace, intelligence, honesty and deep understanding. Thank you for sharing your path

    Reply

  5. Sue Steele - Theeck
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 07:36:42

    Julie,
    You have always been in my prayers…and will continue to be as well as your beautiful family and all who love you…..i know the afterlife…whatever you believe it to be….is the greatest reward…and I know, without a doubt that all of us will be together again one day….wish I loved closer…❤

    Reply

  6. Laura
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 08:15:51

    I don’t understand – what happened to the trial? Wasn’t it working at least somewhat? Did the radiation work on your spine met?

    Reply

    • Ellen
      Jul 01, 2017 @ 17:39:21

      Julie,
      I read all your posts and always marvel at your insight and spirit in the face of all that you are going through. I never post because I don’t feel I have anything of value to add. I still don’t, but wanted to reach out anyway and say that my thoughts are with you and your family. The way you have dealt with life and all it’s tribulations is incredible.
      Wishing you peace,
      Ellen

      Reply

  7. Christine Rice
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 08:30:00

    Peace and comfort my dear Julie. Your gifts to the world will live on. We will miss you but I understand exactly what you have said here.
    I will be on the same adventure soon and will see you there in the after lifetime.♡

    Reply

  8. Giada
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 08:35:20

    I’m not making light of the pure tragedy of dying so young. However, since you asked, I will tell you that I watched my mother and my friends’ mothers slowly decline into their 90s. They hated it. More than one said their bodies lived too long. Is there ever a good death? Is it better to die young than suffer when old? Do all the choices have to suck? I don’t know the answers. I don’t believe as you do. I don’t believe that anything happens after death, but boy do I hope you are right and I am wrong. My wish for you is that you take whatever peace and joy you can from your time left on earth. I am so sorry the drug trials didn’t work, but in taking them you gave others in the future a chance and perhaps bought a bit more time for your family to enjoy you.

    Reply

  9. Christine Mcmorris
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 08:43:15

    Julie you are an extraordinary person who has crossed so many boundaries during your life; this is one more that you are facing with peace and an open heart. Your friends and family will hold onto your love and example forever.

    Reply

  10. thecausecoach
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 08:48:38

    Wishing you a peaceful journey. I only met you today through a friend who shared your blog on FaceBook. I am sensing you are someone I’d like to know more. I look forward to meeting you at our journey’s end. Love and peace to you.

    Reply

  11. Jeffrey Jordan
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 09:14:11

    I read every one these. This one leaves me in awe. I have felt my mortality for a while now. Although I have not yet been forced to imminently come to terms with it, you help me at least to appreciate that feeling. You share in the ultimate sense of that word. Thank you. My thoughts are with you.

    Reply

  12. Barbara Gettelman
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 10:44:17

    Julie, you have taught me so much about how to live. You will continue to do so until your last breath. From your posts I see that you continue to embrace life in the midst of this unknown transition.

    Reply

  13. Carrie Griffin Basas
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 11:01:48

    You have taken all of your research skills and tenacity to keep going in this life. You have preserved memories for your daughters in your writing. And you’ve shown us all how messy this process is, and that even in the end, we are still learning and growing.

    Reply

  14. Laura Bennett
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 11:31:41

    Julie, you live so fully and in a state of grace. When I read your comments about dying young, I think of how often I hear the comment from people working through difficulties, saying, “it beats the alternative”. In my mind I think, “does it? I hope not.”, but I don’t say it out loud because I don’t want to offend or make people uncomfortable. Anyway, I believe like you do, the alternative (an afterlife) is good. You will be in the best company. But it’s still hard to leave, loving our lives here. Peace, love, ease and comfort to you as you prepare for your journey, and as you embrace these precious days with your loved ones.

    Reply

  15. A fellow traveller
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 12:08:42

    Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
    You must travel it by yourself.
    It is not far. It is within reach.
    Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
    Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.
    -Whitman

    Reply

  16. lisab21
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 12:31:41

    May peace be with you. This is beautifully written. Sending much love and blessings to you and your family and loved ones.

    Reply

  17. Sarah Leonard
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 13:10:51

    I was just diagnosed this year so started following your journey only recently. Your words are beautiful, and bring me comfort as I deal with my own mortality. Thank you for sharing your words, your journey, your spirit with us.

    Reply

  18. Eileen Strauchler
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 18:17:30

    Julie, If you would like a death doula, Let me know. Prayers and hugs

    Reply

  19. Mariane from colon talk
    Jul 01, 2017 @ 20:51:28

    Dear Julie,
    I just wanted to let you know that since I read your blog for the first time in August 2015 (2 months after I got diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer), I have been praying for you. There were better days and worse ones for you and me when I prayed more fervently. I did not write you being busy with my own treatment and little kids. I have not had much to say. Nothing somebody have already written better. You knew so much. During my own cancer journey I have felt presence of God. Prayer gave me peace. In the dark days I cried my despair to Him. The peace and light have always come back. There are many like me anonymous people who think and pray for you and your family. You are dear to us. If you are so dear to us strangers, how priceless you are for God? In my dark moments I try not to divert my eyes from the Light, I think about my dear grandmothers and about my grandfathers whom I never met. I try to see further than death and to see it just as a passage, new birth to eternal life. Just as you see it. I wish you more time here with all my heart. We do not know the whole picture. I can only assure you that I will continue praying for you and your family.

    Reply

  20. Liz
    Jul 02, 2017 @ 08:33:48

    How I wish you could stay longer too, Julie. I continue to think of you daily.
    With comfort~
    Liz

    Reply

  21. Wonn
    Jul 02, 2017 @ 13:49:35

    Julie, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. You have touched the lives of so many with your insightful writings. You are truly a treasure!

    Reply

  22. Curtis and Lisa
    Jul 02, 2017 @ 17:14:47

    Julie, we’ve been reading your blog religiously. Thank you for the gift of your insights and wisdom. We are thinking of you, Josh, and your girls.

    Reply

  23. Anne
    Jul 02, 2017 @ 17:55:02

    I am awestruck by your clarity. I offer my prayers of peace and comfort especially for you, and for all those who hold you in their hearts. Thank you for sharing yourself to your readers.

    Reply

  24. Catherine M
    Jul 02, 2017 @ 18:28:58

    Julie-I knew you only briefly at our law firm, but have kept up with your blog for the last year. I wish I had commented earlier to tell you what a beautiful writer you are, and what an exemplary mother as well. I write now to wish you great peace and comfort in the coming days and to extend my thoughts and prayers to your family, especially your girls. Good wishes, safe journey, and love to you Julie, for your incomparable spirit.

    Reply

  25. Deborah Hoffman
    Jul 02, 2017 @ 21:40:02

    Julie, who could have imagined that meeting each other in a far away place, The Galapagos, that a very special friendship & bond would evolve. You are a beautiful women inside and out and I feel truly blessed that we are such dear friends. You have touched my heart & I love and care about you and wish that there was something I could do to slow your journey down. You have today and will always have a very special place in my heart!. My thoughts & prayers are with you to continue to be strong and take all the love that everyone is sending your way. Your life has meant more than you can imagine to me & all of your friends. Love, Deborah❤️

    Reply

  26. wixona13
    Jul 03, 2017 @ 12:02:57

    My brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer a few months ago. In researching his disease I came upon your blog, which contains some of the most beautiful and moving writing I’ve ever read. I’m so incredibly sorry to hear about this recent development for you. I’ll be praying for you and your family and hoping for a miracle.

    Reply

  27. Melissa Marler
    Jul 03, 2017 @ 14:16:57

    Julie, I did not know you well at Cleary, but we have a lot of mutual friends, and I found your blog via their Facebook links. Your writing is such a treasure for your girls and all who love you, and I imagine for so many strangers who are dealing with cancer as well. I will be thinking about you and your family. Sending you peaceful thoughts for the time you have left with them and beyond.

    Reply

  28. Nuria
    Jul 03, 2017 @ 20:07:13

    Dear Julie,
    Again in the face of this terrible and unfair disease you are showing us the way. What to say? For those close to you sitting helplessly by (your parents, your children, your siblings, your husband) this is a pain too deep for words. For those of us not so close, but who have been illuminated by your raw honesty and beautiful writing, also sitting helplessly by, imagining the situation, nothing sounds remotely appropriate.
    I was in denial, hoping for a better outcome from your scan, but your intuition in the last post turned out accurate because again you know better.
    I have learned a lot about life from you, and will try not to waste my health and my life while they last. I will keep checking your blog.
    Much love and peace,
    Nuria

    Reply

  29. Kelly D.
    Jul 04, 2017 @ 01:49:34

    I am having a very hard time coming up with what feels like the right thing to say. Your journey and writings have hit so close to home for myself and my family. I took care of my husband during his colon cancer battle and I was with when he passed. I do believe he was at peace at the end and I wish the same for you. I hope you realize what an inspirational person you are to so many people… both those who love you and are lucky enough to call you family or friend, and those of us who may not know you personally but whose lives you have touched immensely. I am certain the world is better for you having lived.

    Reply

  30. Gina Morse
    Jul 04, 2017 @ 16:39:41

    Dear Julie,
    I have followed your blog, and after this most recent post I’ve gone back and read through most of it once more. Forgive me for my inability to eloquently convey to you how much your journey has personally touched my life. The grace and dignity with which you have endured your illness and have come to acceptance is truly admirable, as is the amazing life you’ve lived and fierce love you hold for your family.

    While I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting or knowing you in person, I have taken your words and wisdom deep into my heart, and will carry them with me always. You have been courageous, strong, and a champion for many. You are a beautiful soul.

    I pray now for your comfort, your total peace. For you and yours to be surrounded with the same pure love you hold in your heart, which sustained you through your most trying times.

    With love,
    Gina

    Reply

  31. Dan Fitzpatrick
    Jul 08, 2017 @ 19:12:54

    I’m not far behind Julie. See you there. Much love.

    Reply

  32. Kathy
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 12:49:52

    Sweet Julie,
    I just came across your blog today and have just begun reading it. To say you are amazing is probably something you’ve heard for years now.
    You are a special woman and all I can do or say at this point…hoping you will read it…is that you are an angel of God while on this Earth. Just the little I’ve read so far shows me what an amazing woman you are with an amazing family.
    I will pray for your peace and your family’s during this time. I will read your blog entirely knowing it will change me and my outlook on life forever.
    I have a son in law battling stage 4 appendix cancer and is scheduled for HIPEC this Monday. Brand new 6 week old baby girl (first baby) and I pray he can hold her close and tight for many years.
    So by reading your blog and following your outlook and attitude, I hope to be able to assist Bob in his long critical journey. So thank you for sharing your life and being so open and honest with life.
    I don’t know you but I love you with all my heart and soul.
    God Speed Julie…you are a true inspiration forever and always.

    Reply

  33. Tyler Burton
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 14:42:32

    Dear Julie,

    I read your post as soon as it was published. After some tears I was left “speechless”. More than a week later I have found my voice to say to you all of the things that I would say at your memorial service. I know that you will be listening then too, so why not hear it from both sides. David and I so enjoyed meeting you and Josh. We were and still are enamored by your girls. We are glad that were able to have family time on Cape Cod and are sad that you were not all able to visit us at the new house. David has not read your blog because he wants his friendship with Josh to be what Josh wants it to be and not driven by wondering what David thought of this and that. Courageous is not a word that can be used to describe you. I’m not sure how to find a word that blends your journey across the sea, into American schools and your ability to be a lifetime learner in love, law and medicine. Daughter – Wife – Mother. It has been an honor to read your blog and admire your human qualities. Thank you Julie for being selfless by sharing your journey which has enriched anyone who has followed your blog.

    Reply

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