People often tell me that I “look great”. I think what they mean is “You don’t look like you are dying of cancer!” I don’t. That’s because I haven’t had surgery, chemo or radiation, I eat well, and am surrounded by loving care of every sort and on every dimension. I live in the shimmering grace of gratitude and love. And naps. And my puppy, Tara.
People also tell me “we are all dying, you aren’t really all that different from any of us”, and what they mean, I assume, is “What’s the big deal? None of us get out of here alive.” Or, in the case of a few close neighbors, “We are all suffering from one thing or another, as we age. ” A few might even add “Suck it up” but are too kind to say it out loud.
Now that I am living in the realm of “I will die someday”, rather than “I am going to die really soon!”, I can understand these comments better, those spoken or unspoken. And let me try to tell you, these realms are in fact radically different. Unless you have experienced the diagnosis of imminent death, I am not sure that there is a way for anyone to know this. It’s not a concept, it’s a felt reality.
Eric and I have subscribed to a wonderful magazine named Parabola for decades. Last summer, I picked up a copy of their Summer 2015 edition, about Angels and Demons. There’s a wonderful quote on p. 93 that goes like this:
The denial of death is numbing. But when I know for certain that I can disappear at any moment, it frees me from dullness. Each instant becomes a possible starting point for something I have never done or said before. The thought of dying opens a passage that, like the straight gate of the gospels, leads directly to a life of such transfiguring intensity, I feel as if I had risen from the dead.
This is from a book by Carl Lehmann-Haupt, entitled The Crazy Thing. Hope to read it soon. He lived with a terminal diagnosis, then got better, but realized that he was becoming complacent again, and had lost something along the way.
The gift of a terminal diagnosis: a life of transfiguring intensity. Yes.
At this moment in time, I have one foot in the “dying soon” camp and another foot in the “maybe I’ll live another 10 years” camp. No way to know for sure. I still feel like shit most of the time, so not much has changed there. I’d like to keep the “transfiguring intensity”, however, from time to time anyway. Instant clarity!
What I do notice is that I am beginning to get interested in life again, how I might be of service to others, seeing other people here in the village, taking care of business. (TCB for those of us who come out of the 60s!) Can’t do much about any of this yet, but I have my head up above the waters for the first time in about 5 years or more, taking a look around between naps.
Sending you all love. Have patience with each other, because we never really know what someone’s journey is about, or where it may be going.