I recently had a conversation with a friend who was diagnosed to have stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Dealing with terminal illnesses take a toll on the social, economic, financial and emotional aspects of our lives. It affects not only people who are afflicted with it, but the family and closest friends as well. I guess the most unsettling part of my friend telling me this was that he needed to know what was happening. Why everything came so fast. Why it had to be him. What are the treatment options? When was he going to die?
I sat there in silence, listening to him talk about the circumstances that led to him being diagnosed with the terminal illness. He said that it all started as a tummy ache and took some medicines given out by the pharmacist in a local drug store. But the pain never really went away. He thought that his dieting was causing the dyspepsia and bloating and experienced some back pains a few months before this diagnosis. He had not really taken these symptoms seriously. After all, he was young, a frequent traveler, didn’t smoke and socially drank, a successful businessman with a beautiful family. Too busy for anything, he sought my professional advice a few months later. I told him that he needed to see a gastroenterologist. The “tummy aches” and other symptoms needed a professional medical attention. He was hesitant for a few weeks. Busy, according to him. Afraid, according to me.
What do you talk about when one comes face to face with death because of a terminal illness? How do you cope a rollercoaster of feelings? What do you talk about when one knows he/she is going to die?
I have no answer for these questions. What I do know, however, is that it is difficult to face death alone. There is nothing in this world that will prepare us for the inevitable face-to-face meeting with death. Whether it is like a thief in the night that takes someone you love suddenly, or it’s a lingering illness where suffering and pain make the journey towards dying something we look forward to – nothing prepares us to meet death.
Things we love, we will lose one day. Things we fear, we will face one day. God sometimes put us in the dark to prove He is the light. That’s why we should live life one day at a time.
I’ve often asked myself the question – what would we be willing to trade to see another sunrise or sunset? I searched my mind for a good reply but sadly found none. Even if the journey is fraught with suffering and pain, many of us fight to have one last look at another day.
Life is a little jar of memories.
Fill it with people worth remembering.
Make it matter.