Life – the original terminal illness

Morbid title, huh? Think about it. Come on, really think about it. The one thing that is a fact from the day we are born – is that we will die. It is required. No one lives forever. Not physically anyway, although the media and popular culture has been keeping Elvis alive for 36 years. So lets look at our own mortality.

We, as humans, are uniquely adept at dealing with death. We ignore it, put it in the back of our minds. We make excuses for it – use the cause of death as the reason for it to make sense – or not. But from a very young age, we are aware of death. It is part of life. Look at the obituaries in the newspaper. “Died of natural causes”; “Died after a long illness”; “Died after a short illness”; “Died unexpectedly”; “Died as the result of an automobile accident”; “Died as the result of a house fire”; the list goes on. But have you ever seen an obituary list the true cause of all death? “Died because he/she was born”? I’m not making fun – I’m serious! Think about it. If you were not born, you could not die. That simple.

So, the one thing all humans have in common is we are born, and we will die. I guess that’s two things, but bear with me. So how is it determined how we die? Sure, lifestyle has an effect – if you never use drugs, chances are you will never die of a drug overdose. But more specifically, why is it some people die lingering, horrid, offensive deaths – cancer, leukemia, ALS, MS, Lupus, et al – and others just die – car wreck, fire, or simply old age? Maybe its all relevant – it all has a purpose. Take me, for instance. My father died when I was 15, at age 64; my mother died when I was 21, at age 58. My father died of a “cardiac event” – his heart exploded when 3 of the 4 valves that allow blood flow clogged at the same time. My mother died of acute liver failure, acute kidney failure, caused by alcoholism. Another way to put it – she drank herself to death. So before I graduated high school, I lost my dad. It changed the way I looked at the world, it changed me. When my mother died, it changed me too. But with her it was simple relief that it was over. Both events shaped me, though. Made me look at the world, and how I would conduct my life.

We use death as a milestone for life. Where were you when JFK was assassinated, Elvis died, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, John Lennon was shot. Funeral pre-planning is a big business. But we don’t think about when we will die, its just some date off in the future.

For those in the end stages of cancer or other terminal illnesses, its still some date off in the future, but its much closer than any want to think about. However, it is a fact. When you have a disease or illness that will kill you, the “end” becomes a tangible instead of an unknown. You know, pretty much its a given, that this is the last Valentines, last Mother’s Day, last Father’s Day, last July 4th – because you know that as it stands now, your body simply can’t hold out 365 more days til the next one. You know that those family members who are thousands of miles away probably won’t get to make another visit. You know, deep inside, that this is goodbye. Heartbreaking – you bet. Heartrending for those on the outside looking in – definitely. Part of life – yes.

You have heard all the cliches – died too soon, died too suddenly, died too young, lived a good long life, no longer in pain, not suffering anymore – the list goes on. Platitudes. But since we are looking at life as a terminal illness – death is inevitable. So, I put this out there as a different perspective. Those with a terminal illness, from what I have seen, develop a greater reverence for life. They know it is slipping through their fingers, so each sunrise, each sunset, each hug is more important, because it may be the last. They know that there may not be tomorrow. They have the upper hand! Because unlike the rest of us – who have the mistaken idea in our head that there are innumerable tomorrows, and we will always have another chance – the terminally ill know there is an end, and they face that fact. Daily. It makes each day truly a gift.

My friend Mike posted in his blog today that he had to say one of those goodbyes, to one of his kids yesterday. She lives 1500 miles away, and he is in the end stages of brain cancer, so it is most likely that this was goodbye. His blog broke my heart when I read it, but the longer I turned it around in my head, and in my heart, it became a blessing. Because he has a timeline – he knows the end is near – he knows these goodbyes must be said. Its part of the realization of a terminal illness, that there is an end.

So I’m going to put this in a different perspective. Since life is a terminal illness from day one, why don’t we live it like it is? Tell people you love them. Give them that hug. Show them your tears. Don’t hide your compassion in a veil of “macho”. Because life is a terminal illness, and we should make the MOST of every single minute!!!!!!

I’m going to reblog Mike’s blog – in the hopes that its a blessing to all who see it. We all need to live every day like its our last – because we have no guarantee of tomorrow. But most of all, we need to get the word out that cancer is still wreaking havoc on way too many lives, and must be stopped!

Hoping you have a great day, and hug those you love. Because, after all, you may not have tomorrow. This is life, after all – its only guarantee is that its temporary.

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