It’s been a tough few weeks in my world. First, my brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly, and second, my mother’s condition as she battles with cancer has deteriorated significantly. The combination of both has thrown me for a bit of a loop and my mind and actions have been somewhat unfocused (which has also resulted in my not posting my real estate and localism blogs lately).
I’m no stranger to death, unfortunately. As I mentioned in a previous blog (http://wp.me/p1le37-6c), I lost my sister when we were teenagers. That loss helped shaped my focus in life. I totally “get it” that this is our only life and we need to act accordingly. And most of the time, that’s what I’ve done – I don’t let fear or doubts stop me from doing things I really want to do, or from taking risks in life, because life is really short and I want to get the most out of it and I want to give the most to it.
But when tragedy strikes, it’s always an appropriate time to take another look at our lives and make sure we’re moving along the path we want to be on.
My brother-in-law was 52 years old with a close-knit family. He made his home the center of his life, spending all the quality time he could with his teenagers and his wife. He was an executive at a large worldwide corporation, so his sphere of influence was wide. He had a warm, endearing nature, and a great sense of humor and he loved to laugh often. He really was in the “prime” of his life when he went out of the country on a business trip and he passed away suddenly. The subsequent few weeks have been filled with tears, anguish, and an outpouring of love and support for the family. It’s been a sad, sad time for all.
My mother’s situation is different. She has been battling a relatively rare form of cancer for four years. (Although if a “rare” cancer strikes someone you know, it’s not rare at all, is it?) She has Peritoneal cancer, which is, in simple terms, cancer of the lining of the abdomen. For the entire time she’s been in treatment, she maintained her upbeat attitude, dealing with hair loss, weight gain, weight loss, rashes, feet problems, etc. When one type of chemotherapy didn’t do the trick, she wholeheartedly tried the next type. And the next. And the next. After years of different cocktails, it became evident there was no medicinal cure, and no medicine that would keep the cancer at bay. So a few weeks ago, my mom decided to stop chemotherapy and to just “see what happens.”
Well, what is happening is painful. My mom had to start home hospice almost immediately. She has a tumor in her abdomen and she can’t breathe properly because she’s getting fluid in her lungs. She is nauseous and is on anti-nausea medicine and oxygen and is taking morphine to relax her airways (and everything else) and is spending a lot of time sleeping. Because my mom is on the other side of the country, for the next few weeks I have to rely on phone calls and emails to keep in touch. We’re going to visit in a few weeks so I’m looking forward to seeing her and holding her hand and hopefully providing some support. I have to remember to try not to make her laugh too hard; it causes a coughing fit. Anyway, while a miracle could always happen and somehow she could miraculously become well, that’s not the way it looks right now.
Last weekend when we were on our way to the funeral, we passed a church where a wedding had just occurred. The wedding group was outside the church laughing and celebrating; a life together was just starting as we were on our way to a funeral where a life as we knew it was ending. Isn’t that the way life is? The world keeps spinning and as some people are entrenched in grief, others are experiencing joy. Babies are born and people are dying and the world keeps going. People lose those they love, and their lives are changed forever, changing from what they knew as “normal” to the “new” normal of a life without the person they’ve lost. This tragedy is a tough part of life and it’s a rare person that wouldn’t think about their own mortality when punched in the face with it.
So working through all my emotions that come along with death and illness has made me once again take stock of my life. One day last week, I thought to myself, “what if I were to die tonight; is there anyone I need to talk to, any hurts I need to heal, anything I have to do to make things right?” And the positive news was that I couldn’t think of any wrongs I would need to make right. I couldn’t think of anything I haven’t said that I wanted to. Sure, there are places I want to go, things I want to experience, and I’m getting to those bit by bit, but it’s the human condition; the relationships we have with others that are the real key to life. And luckily, at this moment, I am where I want to be with those I know and love.
That being said, I have had a small rebirth of sorts. Specifically, I have tweaked my decision making process ever so slightly. I’m making a conscious decision to constantly make choices that are meaningful. For example, earlier this week, I was faced with a choice. I could drive 15 minutes to my office and join in with my coworkers in a holiday meal; an hour or so of fun, or I could drive two hours round trip and spend a few hours with my mother-in-law and father-in-law. It wasn’t even a close choice, but a choice none-the-less. Of course I chose to visit my in-laws. We spent a few hours talking and visiting and it helped me tremendously and they enjoyed the distraction. We had a great time talking and getting to know each other even better. And at the end of the day, I felt as though the choice I made on what to do with my time mattered. I’m hoping to keep that mantra in the front of my mind and heart as I move forward over the coming weeks and months and years and decades (should I be lucky enough to HAVE weeks and months and years and decades). The mantra is, when faced with any choice, which option would matter?
So when you have a few minutes of down time, think deep within yourself. Is there anyone you need to talk to? Any wrongs you need to right? Any specific actions you need to take in order to make your life meaningful and complete? Any paths you are on that need some redirection? If yes, put everything else on hold and take care of those things. Because none of us is guaranteed another minute.