No matter the circumstance, my belief that I am not the only one is often confirmed when others chime in to let me know it is true. If that is the case, then lately, many of us having been working through a great number of life’s challenges. Over the last couple of months, I have experienced the joys of new life in the form of a grandchild and the birth of children of distanced associations – a great-great niece and the birth of children of my children’s friends. It’s a reminder that I am indeed getting older, as in a conversation that goes something like, “I remember when you were born, and I remember when you gave birth. How is it possible that your daughter is now having a child of her own?” When did I get old?
On the flip side of celebrating the joys of new life starting out on this journey, is of course, those nearing or completing their time here. I spent part of the last weekend celebrating the life of a dear friend’s father and mourning the ninth anniversary of my mother’s passing. And I will be attending the remembrance of the life of another friend’s mother this weekend.
In between I’ll be joining others as we commemorate the life that made me a mother a mere 31 years ago. That would be 31 years ago today, as a matter of fact. The best kind of celebration of a life still unfolding.
So many turns between sadness for endings and joy for beginnings it could make one’s head spin. And spinning is a pretty accurate description of how I am doing today.
Meanwhile, one of my closest “chosen family” is near death. This particular friend is in the last stages of the ravages of cancer. We know he is not going to get better. He is, in fact, dying. Hospice of the Foothills got the call and stepped up to perform their remarkable services. I find great comfort in knowing the time he has left will be spent in the highest quality of care thanks to their compassionate and professional staff. He and his loved ones are in a better space with that support.
For me, acknowledging the reality that my pal and I are not going to be doddering on a beach together somewhere as centenarians, has been a shift. While I have, on some level, known it was coming, my optimistic self chose to ignore the possibility that he would be leaving this realm any time soon.
Given the reality we are facing, the question I have been asking to everyone I know, including my buddy, is this: Given the option, would you rather know you are dying, or drop dead unexpectedly? If you could take pain out of the equation, would you rather know or simply drop dead? An informal poll of many of those in my circle has ended in a stalemate. In equal proportion, those asked to have responded with an “I would rather drop dead of a heart attack” to “I would like to know.”
I personally see the gift my friend has in being diagnosed with a chronic illness. While I have pretended the disease was not working insidiously all these years to bring his time on Earth to an end, he has used the time (and knowing) to say what he wants to say to any and every person he wants to say something to. He has been able to heal relationships, make peace with choices, apologize for transgressions, and bestow wisdom. That is a gift.
But once all of that is done, how difficult is it to just keep breathing and enjoy the passing of one day to the next? Selfishly, I want him to stay. I see that he is tired. But if he is not suffering, I urge him to keep breathing, to stay with us, to spare us the pain of living the rest of our life without him.
For those who simply wish to drop dead one day from a heart attack, car accident, or other calamity, my hope is that you have your wishes, finances, and other matters of importance in order. If you are wise enough to have clean relationships, and “no regrets,” I say, “good on ya!”
Because here is a reality check. We all have an expiration date. We should all be living as my friend has been living these last months. No one is getting out of here alive. Spend your days doing the things that bring you joy. Find a way to go, do and be. Heal the relationships that matter.
Somewhere along the evolutionary path we were all taught that having and achieving were the priority. I have come to understand the pursuit of stuff is actually not what this journey is all about. Experiences and relationships with others are what really matter.
When we come to the end of our own journeys, it is never going to be about the accumulation of goods but will undoubtedly be about the connection and impact we make with others.
To that end, let’s spend our days doing what matters to us. We have gotten so locked into the trappings of success – mortgages and car payments and the need to have more — that we waste years in jobs we don’t enjoy, in relationships that don’t bring us pleasure, pedaling as fast as we can without making any progress – we are all here on a limited basis — let’s all wake with the notion that our time here is coming to an end.
Today really is the day to live like you are dying.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at email@example.com