Learning Not To Take Life For Granted
The need to write this post came from what has turned into a very difficult and emotional week, and it is dedicated to the Eder family, and to all those that are dealing with loss.
As is usually the case, we take life totally for granted until it drops a 10 ton block on our head. I have been blessed with having a long and special friendship with an incredible man, who has the strongest will to live of anyone I’ve ever known. He is by trade a neon tube bender, but is also very accomplished at stained glass, and recently, melted glass. He developed Crohn’s Disease as a teenager, and spent a good part of his life in operating rooms and hospitals. About 20 years ago, he had an especially bad flare up that put him at death’s door, and the drugs that were given to save him, unfortunately, left him without his fingers, toes, and hearing. Despite all the odds, within a years time he was back at work bending neon as beautifully as before, and shortly after that, started again working with stained glass. Years later, he was forced into an ostomy bag, but still kept his independence and continued to work, and create. Through all of it, he rarely complained, would seek help only if absolutely necessary, and talked about how much he loved his life, and how grateful he was to the medical teams, and his family and friends.
Last September, the doctors found a large tumor, and in October, removed his bladder hoping it would eliminate the cancer, and let him return to normal living despite now having to deal with 2 bags. As has always been typical, he took it all in stride, feeling great appreciation for the chance to continue his life and his art. But it was not meant to be, and by late December he was in radiation therapy.
This week, I took him to his follow up appointment, and on the way there, he said, ” I’m desperate for more time “. I knew he would go to any lengths possible to make that happen, and despite the weakness in his body, he was prepared to endure the chemotherapy that we assumed was the next step. Instead of hearing about what the treatment schedule would be though, he was lovingly told by his very emotional doctor, that medicine had reached its limit, and they had no means to kill the beast inside him. The guess was 6 months to a year. As all three of us wept, he kept hoping that there was some way, some miracle still left, and then as hope faded, acceptance started taking root. On the way home we talked about him actually receiving the time he had so fiercely wanted, even though it was far short of what he had in mind. For unlike those that die suddenly, he would be able to do what he felt needed to be done, and say the things that needed to be said. When he commented that he didn’t want to leave me, it struck me that just because he knew what was coming, didn’t mean that at any given moment, something could happen that would put me there first. At that point, we made a pact that the first one to go, would try and reach out from the other side. The conversation then turned to the importance of living one moment, and one day at a time, and that it was just as important for me to do, as it was for him, because again, no one knows the number of days in their lives. To assume that you have an unlimited amount of tomorrows, is a fools errand, so wasting any day, is a loss we can’t afford. His final thought that day was ” Why does it take something like this to realize how precious it all is ? It’s so short.”
Life, something so treasured that we hold onto it with every fiber of our being, and not just our own, but that of every person or creature that matter to us. Hospitals, doctors offices, and vet clinics are all filled with people trying to extend or preserve it. The loss of life, though inevitable, is for most of us, our greatest fear, or our greatest sorrow.
If we first look at the fear of our own death, we know that it is primarily based on not knowing what’s behind the door. Some believe that paradise awaits, some expect to return in another form, and some see it as nothingness, but no matter how strong the faith, the truth is not revealed until the time actually comes. Part of that fear is also what we see as the loss of all that has become important; family, friends, career, and the lists of could’ves, should’ves and would’ves that we continually put off until “tomorrow”. It is the consideration of death that awakens our ability to see the intense beauty of life, and the thought of being torn away from that, becomes almost unbearable.
The loss of a loved one brings its own set of fears, whether or not they are an active part of our lives. It’s the thought of not being able to see them, hear them, or touch them that rips through our hearts. When we dwell on all the experiences we’ll miss, the stories that won’t be told, the laughter and tears that won’t be shared, we sometimes forget what’s best for them. Life extended is not always a good thing, and there will come a point when allowing our loved ones to leave, is more merciful than trying to make them stay. Letting go though, is one of the hardest things we face, and the emptiness that accompanies it, can last a lifetime.
How then do we deal with the fear, and desolation of death ? Our power over death lies in our ability to embrace life. Our only choice is to recognize the incredible gift that we have been given before we stand at that door. We need to embrace the well worn adage ” Live like there’s no tomorrow “, because at some point, there won’t be one. Don’t let words of love or friendship go unsaid, or opportunities pass. Let laughter shake you from your toes, and tears flow until they wash away the pain. Remember that life is a roller coaster, with the ups and downs working together to create the experience, and resist the impulse to let small irritations intrude into your happiness, because in the end, we won’t remember who didn’t take out the trash or forgot to pick up the cleaning, we’ll only remember the sun on our face, the song in our heart, and the love exchanged.
For me, this says it all
Life’s Journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ” What a Ride ! ” ( from an unknown source)
Heather M Spencer
Mission Positive Films
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