The longer I live the more I realize that not only is it important for us to learn how to live well, it is also important for us to learn how to die well too. I’ve written before about how a good friend of mine invited our group of friends to know him even more intimately as a friend after he was diagnosed as being HIV Positive. We were all given the privilege of walking through the day to day “being-ness” with our friend Norbert as he faced living and dying. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that each person gets to trip the light fantastic to their death as they see fit. It is not for me or any other loved one of theirs to put our beliefs, inspirations and fear onto them. We can share, of course, our own experience, strength and hope but in the final outcome how a person chooses to live and die is their own personal choice.
I’m glad I was given that gift of insight out of my friend Norbert’s experience especially after receiving a phone call early this morning from another good friend that a series of misdiagnosis and readings had shown that instead of having old pneumonia in his lungs and then later being told that it was Stage I Cancer that it had turned out to really be Stage IV Aden carcinoma Lung Cancer.
This may seem like an odd topic to write about for a Coach that specializes in career transition and helping vintage rockers express their music in a new way and helping troubled teens hear the calm in their hearts, but if you think about it, isn’t living and dying all something that we’re doing and going to do at some point in our journey here on Planet Earth?
I love to write about “taboo” subjects (such as death and dying) because I want to give readers and writers a safe place to feel their feelings and realize that they (we) are not alone. This death thing just doesn’t have to be as macabre as some would like to make it out to be. I’m grateful that my friend called me this morning to tell me about his diagnosis and that he shared with me how he told his twelve year old daughter. He walked her through his process of going into the hospital for the lung biopsy and then the first diagnosis from the doctors that they were 99% sure that it was something such as old pneumonia, and then that they had misdiagnosed him and that it did look like a treatable form of Lung Cancer and finally he told her about the latest diagnosis using the formal name for the cancer without giving her the “C” word (on purpose because she liked figuring out big words) which allowed her understanding to unfold so that she could say, “My father has cancer” to the nurses in the dining room during lunch. What I loved most about my friend’s handling of this with his daughter was she was given the space and time to understand and then an open heart from her dad to talk about it. After spending the day at the hospital with her dad and step-mom, she told her mom about her Dad having Cancer during the car ride home and then talked about what that was like with her father later on that evening on the phone. She ended their phone conversation by telling her Dad that she wanted to finish the Harry Potter book that she was reading and would call him before she went to bed so that he could sing her to sleep (I must confess when he told me this last part, I did have tears streaming down my face!).
I don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like for my friend but today I feel subdued but calm knowing that I can show my love for his family and him today. Of course there is the natural instinct in me to want to “fight” this thing, and I am very willing to stand by whatever decision my friend makes in regards to handling his prognosis, but right now I am going to surrender into the peace and quiet of trusting something bigger than myself. It is times like this that I believe we can let that unseen love enfold us without having to name it. Likewise, I can let the feelings happen when they happen.
This morning my adolescent cats were in an especially loving mood scratching at the window of our door for me to come out and love on them. So I did. Now I’m going to go do the dishes and make up new hummingbird food for the feeders and tomorrow I’m going to prepare a delicious meal to take to my friend for lunch and dinner.
Are you living and dying well today?