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.