Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Carpe Diem--today!

It's time to think about changing my password at work again.  I always try to choose a password that reminds me that there's more to life than e-mail management.  Sometimes I use a shortened form of the working title of a manuscript I'm working on.  Sometimes it's something motivational about exercise or vegetables.

Lately though, life keeps sending me reminders that life is short, and I don't really have time to waste on unnecessary drama.  And they're not joyful reminders.

Yesterday I found out that my best friend since high school has esophageal cancer.  Stage IV.  I am not yet at the point where I can write that without crying.  I doubt I will ever get to that point.  This is a rare cancer that usually strikes old men.  She's my age, 48. 

Another day, another dreadful diagnosis.

Lately I've been in an Ash Wednesday frame of mind.   I'd have been in an Ash Wednesday space even if we weren't at that part of the liturgical year.  I've had news of the death of my favorite undergraduate English professor, a colleague with pancreatic cancer, my best friend from high school with esophageal cancer, and another friend who is in the last stage of kidney failure.

I am feeling frail and mortal and afraid.  I am afraid to admit my fear, for fear that I will seem a bad Christian.  I wrote a theological response to my fear on my theology blog.  In short, I don't think really that it makes me a bad Christian if I'm afraid.  The American way of death is often full of pain and entrapment in the medical-industrial complex.

Once I assumed we'd die when we were old and in deep decline.  Now I'm hearing that winged chariot much too early.

Once I assumed that if I got a dreadful diagnosis, I'd travel, I'd eat, I'd live it up, going out in a blaze of glory.  Now I know that many cancers would make that blaze of glory scenario impossible.

I think it's time to make a list.  If I did get a dreadful diagnosis, what would I want to do with my time remaining?  I need to do that now.

My thoughts don't turn to travel or food.  I'd want to spend more time with friends and family.  I'd turn off the news.  I'd think about how to distribute my money to social justice groups.  Maybe my death could bring some wells to 3rd world countries or some business opportunities to women.  There are writing projects, of course--if I knew I would die in a year, would I worry as much about their completion?  Or would I just enjoy the process?

Happily, I am spending time each day on activities that bring me joy.  I am sharing my wealth.  I am always ready to put work (both creative and paid) aside for human relationships.

Still, I think about the time I fritter away.  Maybe it's time to work on frittering less.

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