Happy Birthday & Happy Deathday

Outside the Circus School in Lima, Peru

After celebrating her 66th birthday and receiving lots of Happy Birthday greetings, my friend Mary Brown pondered in a recent post whether she would receive Happy Deathday greetings when that time came.  Her post got me to thinking . . .

. . . with my stage 4 cancer diagnosis last year and my heart attack this spring, I have reflected a bit more about being dead.  My initial cancer prognosis of 3 – 6 months was a bit hard to swallow.  Having outlived those expectations to a revised 2 – 3 years quality life, and perhaps longer, gave me with a bit more breathing room to ponder everyday events.

  • I spent several hundred dollars on sorely needed “Sunday go to meeting” clothes as I figured with the revised 2-3 year prognosis I would get a good bit of use from them.
  • The avocado trees we just bought are to remain above ground in aerating pots for a couple of years before being planted.  I realize that may be a job that Emma will have to complete.
  • Emma and I are more intentional about wrapping up loose ends on some projects so that we will be able to travel this fall, and spend more time on all those things we have put off for lack of time and competing commitments.
  • I am quite cautious about further commitments in my post “institutional retirement” era in favor of weeding the garden, participating in community based projects, and in small group meetings with friends.
  • A friend wrote me a couple of months ago that I seemed driven to do more stuff.  He said I had done enough and that I could stop and rest.  That statement got me to thinking more broadly than the scope his comments intended.

There remains considerable ambiguity and unknown factors in my cancer diagnosis.  Emma has joked about my “so-called cancer” because I continue to defy all expectations.  But I know that can all come crashing down pretty quickly.  I procrastinated rescheduling the exploratory surgery that was postponed because of my heart attack, opting instead to revel in feeling healthy and a ‘no news is good news’ mentality – but I did make the call to reschedule.

And, as my heart attack showed, it might not be cancer that gets me in the end.  Or maybe it will be the car that nearly hit me while riding my bike on St. Charles Ave. two days ago.  Or this morning, I heard from a couple of yards over the shouts “drop the gun and get down on the ground.”  We simply do not know.

So coming back to Happy Deathday . . .  Today, I am prepared to not be here tomorrow, if that is how things work out.  My life has been incredibly blessed.  As I often note, had I not gotten sober over 30 years ago, I would have died long ago.  I thoroughly enjoy my life today, but also wholly accept that no one gets out of this game alive.  I am very hopeful that the last day I spend on this earth, I am able to fully embrace a Happy Deathday celebration.

12 thoughts on “Happy Birthday & Happy Deathday

  1. I am so glad that you’ve been able to keep such a positive attitude through all of this. I admire you.

    As far as stop and rest is concerned, there is a Professor Emeritus here at UC that is well into his 80’s, lives near the main campus and walks to/from UC when he comes here. I once offered to give him a ride home one day when it was extremely hot and he told me that once he gives in and lets others do for him, that that’s the end of him.

    Keep up the good fight.

    • Thanks for your kind words and support. The Emeritus fellow is right – point well-taken. I am finding that it is important to set my pace and not being doing stuff because of what others might expect of me.

  2. Love that photo! Love that post! Love (and am blessed by) your attitude!

    May I suggest one modification: Instead of “no one gets out of this game alive,” maybe no body [sic] gets out alive? Because one of the things that I am looking forward to in heaven is being fully alive, at last. Unencumbered. Free from the weights and frailties and weaknesses of flesh. Our bodies won’t get out alive, true, but we will be more alive than ever.

  3. Your outlook and posts feel like an instruction manual I should print out and carry around. It is how I would hope to think and act (but already do not). You are incredibly inspiring.

  4. That is a remarkable mindset. I admire you so much. As I am a Christian, I am ready to go and I am closer Home everyday. I hope I have the courage you have when my time comes. I like the fact that you are using everyday to just enjoy small things that we all overlook everyday. Keep on trucking. Love you, Beanie

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