30 May 2014

Living life in the shadow of death

We all know we will die. Some people fear death with terror. Others see death as the final punctuation on a life best lived.

My friend Connie is dying of cancer. She's blogging about the process of death for herself, for her friends, and for people who may need to spend a little more time on their mortality and less time on their netflix queue.*

This recent post mentions an article I sent to her, which I recommend to you. My mother died when I was 18.
Cancer is a hungry thing. Apparently the cancer alone consumes plenty of calories. But with my appetite back and all the great food that people provided over the past 5 months my weight is back up to a good level. So as I head into this time when the tumors are growing again, my health other than the cancer is relatively good especially considering what my body went through with the surgery.

I do find, though, that important nutrients are not as readily available to other parts of my body even though I am eating healthy foods. My fingernails are a mess. I stopped taking vitamins and supplements after the surgery – my digestive system just couldn’t handle them – but I am going to start taking calcium again.

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Our cats have consistently approved of every Hospice Nurse that has come to see me over the past 4 months.

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My friend David Zetland sent me this very interesting essay about death, and how the way we die is changing.

One take-away from this article – if you have not already completed an Advanced Directive regarding how you wish to be cared for if you are unable to communicate your preferences, it would be good to put that on your to-do list.

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David is a world renowned water economist and he is also one of several friends who were approximately the same age my son is now when they lost one or both parents.

The assistance and perspectives provided by this group of friends have been invaluable.

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Long ago I bought a ring with two gems in it, an amethyst and a blue topaz. Because turquoise blue goes well with just about every article of clothing in my wardrobe, I wore the ring often.

One day I realized that every time I put the ring on, I was having the thought, “It is important to not get too attached to ‘things’.” – because I could easily have been very attached to that ring.

And that morning as I put the ring on I thought, “Heck with that! I like this ring a lot. I am going to wear it every day!”

That evening, at a party, I realized that the amethyst was missing from the ring. With many party-goers searching the floor, the amethyst was found. It was broken.

What a huge lesson about attachment!

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Yes, that was indeed me that you saw dancing on the lawn to reggae bands in San Lorenzo Park last Saturday. A friend asked if I would like to go to the Rejuvenation Festival with him, and on the spur of the moment I said yes.

We danced until I was too weak to dance any more.

That night my leg muscles hurt. I slept for a very, very long time.

The next day my leg muscles still hurt.

The day after that my leg muscles still hurt.

It was worth it.

It is just wonderful to still be having so much fun 5 months after the doctors said I had 4 to 6 months left to live.

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Lately I notice that my son saves ‘the last of’ things for me. The last of the strawberries, the last of the eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast.

I don’t always get the last word, though.
Bottom Line: I try to live my life as Connie describes so that -- when death comes -- I leave without regrets.
* Interesting: She began blogging to explore how she and a friend worked to overcome depression, especially in the wake of Aaron Swartz's suicide. She found out she had cancer six months later.

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