Friday was a bad day.
I found out that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer which has spread to her brain. I met her through her husband who was my boss, mentor, and friend for many years. She and I got most closely acquainted when he was in the final stages of cancer and I would go to their house to visit with him.
She has decided to forego any treatment and just to let nature take its course.
A few posts ago, I wrote about my friend who was reinventing his life after prevailing after more than a decade of legal battles that left him financially comfortable. Now I wonder about this friend who is planning, not a new life, but the end of her life.
Robert Heinlein, an amazing futurist and science fiction writer, penned a short story named Life Line. In it, Dr Hugo Pinero invents a machine that can determine your date of death. It had unimaginable consequences.
But what if you could use Dr. Pinero’s magic machine and so you knew, like my friend, that the end was near? What would you do?
The old saying of “plan as if you will live forever, but life each day as if it were your last,” would no longer be valid.
I remember an old television show where a woman found out she had a few months to live. She spent the first week railing against the situation and weeping in desperation. Then suddenly she realized that she’d better get busy if she were going to get everything done that she needed and wanted to in the time she had left.
Emilie du Chatelet was a contemporary of Voltaire’s who did advanced early work into the infamous equation of E=MC(2). She became pregnant at the age of 40. She knew, for her, it was a death sentence. So as her pregnancy progressed, she pushed herself to the limit — working long nights, feverishly trying to finish her research before she gave birth and subsequently died of infection.
But what about the rest of us?
If I knew that RA would progress and I would be disabled in five years, how would I live my life differently than I do now? Would I work at the same job, or would I work at all?
In the acclaimed book, Tuesdays with Morrie, newspaper columnist Mitch Albom recounts his time spent with his 78-year-old sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz, who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). There is a lot of “live life while you can” philosophy in the book. And while I was moved by the book when I read it, the irrepressible practical side of my nature thought that it’s easy to take time to smell the roses when you don’t have to make a living and get the kids to soccer practice and work late to meet deadlines and all the million other things that make up what we call life in these here United States.
But the fact is, we all have the same number of hours in the day, some of us just put more life in them than others.
There is no real point to this post. I’m angry that I, and millions like me, have a chronic disease that gives us such an uncertain future. But most of all, I’m just angry that my friend is dying and there is nothing I can do. I do not have her faith, or courage, or grace.
Thanks for letting me share.