Today, I saw a segment on a morning show about the 42nd anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley and all the events planned in Memphis to mark the date. That struck me as sort of strange. Not that people would celebrate Elvis—he was a musical icon whose music lives on—but that they would do it by marking his death.
I suppose marking the death of someone important to you is commonplace, as is marking other tragic or difficult events in life. I see a lot of people post on Facebook that it was this day however many years ago that their mom died, brother passed away, a beloved pop star overdosed. I’m part of a Facebook group for people with metastatic breast cancer, and folks frequently post that it’s their cancer-versary—marking their date of diagnosis.
Maybe I’m unusual, but I don’t tend to remember exact dates of loved ones’ deaths or my date of diagnosis with MBC. I have a general sense of month and year, but not the exact date. And I don’t really do anything to mark those events. They feel like anti-versaries (pardon the bad play on words).
In part, I think maybe I subscribe to the idea that we should mark and celebrate good events but not spend a lot of energy marking the bad ones.
Where the death of loved ones is concerned, it’s not that I don’t want to remember them, but rather that I want to remember them as they lived. And I find I don’t need a specific date to mark their passing, as I miss them routinely, all through the year—at milestones, when I hear someone whose voice sounds like theirs, when I glance at their picture in our home, when I experience something funny or touching and wish I could share it with them. I don’t find any value in recalling that so-and-so has been gone 5 years or a decade or whatever. If it’s someone who was important to me, their death often seems both like yesterday and like forever ago simultaneously.
As for my cancer-versary… I know I was diagnosed in August 2017. But I don’t know the actual date top of mind. For me, a general sense of how long I’ve lived with this disease is enough. I’m not going out for drinks with friends or lighting a candle or doing anything special to mark the day I got the official news. It’s not something I really want to dwell on. I wrote about this a bit for my first cancer-versary—the mixed feelings of “Yay, I made it another year” and “If there’s a countdown to my demise, then, gee, that’s another year gone.”
Plus, where the disease is concerned, I don’t need any extra help remembering it. I live it every day—the ups and downs (and, lately, more downs). I’ll be darned if I’m going to give cancer a special date of recognition.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t mark deaths, tragic events, and other sad/bad things in their lives. We all process losses and trials differently. It’s just not particularly meaningful or helpful for me. So, this August, I’m going to focus on sending my younger son off to college for the first time, work on planning a trip to celebrate a good anniversary—25 years of marriage on Sept 17, and adjust to yet more new medications (thanks to continued disease progression). My diagnosis date—whenever it is—can come and go quietly in the midst of it all.