Practice for Dying

Say Zen
5 min readJan 28, 2024

My best friend is dying of cancer. These are my notes on sickness, love and letting go.

I’m back in my hometown of Victoria, BC for the holidays, staying with my best friend, Z. I’ve been here for five days already, and while I’m geographically back in the Pacific Northwest, my body somehow still thinks it’s on Stockholm time, refusing to adjust. As a result, I’ve been waking up at 3:00 am every morning, totally alert. It’s annoying, feeling out of sync with everyone around me, and reliably falling asleep on the couch at 7:00 pm every night. But there’s also something special, precious even, about the unintentional early mornings. Jet lag forces me into discipline I can’t find on my own. Disorientation can show you corners of life that are otherwise easy to miss.

Photo by Ante Samarzija on Unsplash

As Z. and the rest of the city sleep, I silently go through my daily routine: make coffee, read my book, sit 20 minutes of meditation, start writing. At some point I go out into the living room, open the curtains and do my messy, fumbling yoga as the sun is coming up. I’m not accomplished at any of these things — not at yoga, not at meditation, and not at writing. Still, their regularity and predictability ground me, creating a container to hold all the fear and grief I feel these days. Practicing helps me face my life with some level of equanimity. Even, sometimes…