It was hard for me to blog tonight. I have had a lot of "feels" all day, which generally lead me to write, but my thoughts have been quite erratic, and this post likely will have to be, too. Life is fragile. This is a common saying used carelessly, I think, but these are words that take on new meaning for terminal patients. True, any person facing a major illness, whether terminal or not, might have a better appreciation for life, but I feel justified in saying that it does not compare to being told your days are numbered. I know from personal experience.
Patients who are diagnosed terminal "live every moment to the fullest." They go sky diving, quit their jobs, spend all their money, tour the world, blah, blah, blah. At least, that's what all the movies, books, and songs say. I didn't feel like sky diving when I was told there was nothing further doctors could do for me. Granted, I was still given a few years, and I can't speak to what it feels like to be given months, weeks, or days. But it was only a few years, and I was only 17. I felt terrified. And life became very precious to me in a way it never had been before. I don't want to die. In fact, I am scared to death to die. I know, good Christians are not supposed to say such things. After all, we are going to be with God afterward, and nothing is better. But I love my family. And I love my life. And though we are not supposed to be of this world, I am. Oh, I don't care so much about possessions, but I do love this world, and especially the people in it. And God and I talk about it a lot, so He's definitely aware of my heretical feelings. I think He understands. His creations are pretty amazing.
I think everyone is a little scared to die. It might be the actual dying, leaving people behind, not knowing exactly what the afterlife will be like, something else, or all three (it's a bit of all three for me, but mostly leaving people behind). Regardless of your personal thoughts, the difference between normal people walking around and those who are handed a ticking clock is that the ones handed the ticking clock are aware that we all have a ticking clock. In normal, every day life, death is easy to put off until old age. For me, it became something that waited around every corner. I wondered what idiot would go sky diving and risk dying sooner. A man sentenced to be executed doesn't typically ask to speed up the date.
I am often told that I am brave. I appreciate the sentiment, and try to live up to it, but I really just do what I have to do. "Afraid" is a better descriptive term for me. All the time, actually. Where others see a beautiful hike along a mountain edge, I see a place that I could accidentally fall to my death. Where some see a passing storm with excess lightning and wind, I see a force that could fling my little home away. Where most would use a little extra caution to traverse winter roads, I would prefer not to go anywhere because I am convinced my family could get in a crash. I think these things (and more, but I won't bore you further with my daily crazies) all the time, but I can't let them control my life. "Ships in harbor are safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
It took me a lot of years, a lot of struggles with my faith, and a lot of anger to realize that God controls my life, and my death. He built me for more than sitting in a harbor. And He will decide when I leave this place, though I will fight like hell going all the way out (He knows that too, we're working on my control issues). But I can take solace in it. I can live my life knowing that it will happen when He chooses, and not before. I still really can't handle the high hiking thing, last time I cried like a baby, I hate heights and edges, but that's another matter. The point is, I know how fragile life is. I worry about it being taken away all the time. And if that sounds like a neurotic way to live, it is. But I also have a very precious view of just how much each moment means, and how involved God is in every second of our days.
So why the morose topic for the night? No, I don't think I'm dying. I haven't considered myself "terminal" for some time. A woman in my parent's church passed away last night, quite suddenly. I didn't know her personally; she prayed for me and spoke to me through Facebook. The loss of her life has already rippled through the social networking community and I have read the pain and disbelief of her passing all day, as well as the sharing of memories. She left behind a daughter around my age who she was incredibly close to. My heart aches for her. I feel so strongly today how fragile life is. Her name was Anita. And her friends and family adored her. I wish that I had known her.
Even for me, with my history and sitting in a hospital room surrounded by people constantly working to prevent me from dying, it is easy to forget that a casual goodbye to a loved one could be my last. It is easy to take daily relationships, even distant ones, for granted. And you know, that's ok. Because that's how we get through each day--by believing there will be another one tomorrow. But it is good to be reminded sometimes, to cherish the seconds, and make memories that will stay with our loved ones even if we can't. It helps put into perspective what matters and what does not. I still hate being here. I hate cancer. I want out of this room and I want to get on with my life. But those things don't really matter. What matters is that I get to be here. My loved ones are all (more or less) nestled in their beds. And I will be here tomorrow morning to keep loving them, and to make more memories.
The fevers seem to have fully passed, but rebuilding blood counts from nothing is not a painless experience. The "storm" will go on for some time. So, after writing this very sporadic and unrefined blog that encompasses so many of my emotions and thoughts over the past years as well as today, it seems fitting to end with a quote I used to have hanging in my room when I was just a teen. "Rise above the storm, and you will find the sunshine." And hug someone you love with a little extra care tonight. Maybe step outside and breathe in some fresh summer air. Listen to birds sing. Heck, go ahead and belt out your own favorite song. Just enjoy it. Every minute.