Wednesday, March 2, 2011


What do you think about when confronted with the possibility of death? You don’t give it too much thought until you are facing the possibility that your days are numbered. That may happen when you get old and your health starts to fail you or when you are young and have been diagnosed with a deadly disease. At least when you are old you come to expect the inevitable; no one lives forever. All you can hope for is a minimum amount of suffering, to keep your dignity throughout, to be able to remain independent and maybe not end up in a nursing home. By that time all your affairs should be in order. You should have a carefully drawn up legal will if you have assets to leave, and that’s about it.

When you are young and facing the prospect of dying, it’s not quite so simple. Having a Last Will and Testament is the least of your concerns. There will be a spouse or parents or children who will inherit everything. What do you think about as you wait in limbo for test results or as you consider your prognosis? I can tell you what I thought about…

I thought about my children, who were 14 and 17 at the time. I wasn’t done raising them yet. I worried about not being there for their birthdays, graduations, weddings, grandchildren. I had so much I needed to tell them and teach them about life. Who was going to talk to them about dating and relationships? Who will comfort them when relationships end? Who would teach them about finances and how to prepare for their future? Who would help them when they needed support and encouragement? Who would wait up for them when they would be coming home late? Who would look at their faces or hear their voices and know something was wrong? Who was going to be there when they have the first babies and feel overwhelmed? Who would advise them when they are making difficult life choices? Who else would be there for them 24/7 without question and love them unconditionally like only a mother can?

Then I thought about my husband. Would I be around for our 25th anniversary? We had planned to go back to Hawaii when the day came. How would get along without me? Would he be lost and withdrawn? Would he be able to focus on the girls while he was grieving? Would he remarry? Would he think about protecting his assets for his children?

And then there is my only brother. He is single. We are the only family he has left. He took the deaths of my parents hard. How would he cope if he lost me too? We were raised to be there for each other and always have been. Who would he turn to or depend on?

I felt like I was failing everyone. I didn’t do anything to cause my illness, but I had so much unfinished business left that only I could do. Of course no one wants to be robbed of their future, it’s a very scary and unfair thing to happen to anyone. To die young is always tragic. But, I was worried about how my absence was going to affect those closest to me. I expressed my concerns to one doctor. She told me, depending on the test results, I might have only 18 months (worse case scenario). I was both sickened and relieved at the same time. Sickened because I knew how fast 18 months would go, and relieved that I had some time to try to accomplish some of the things I needed to do. The girls didn’t even know how to work the washer/dryer and I envisioned them running out of clean clothes and not knowing what to do. You have a lot of crazy thoughts run through your head. And, I I regained my composure I told the doctor I am worried about my girls. She answered, “Don’t worry about them, trust me, they’ll be fine.” Can you imagine hearing that from your doctor? I was speechless and in total disbelief, and it’s a good thing too, or I might have had a stroke right there.

You can never be prepared for a terminal diagnosis. If the disease doesn’t kill you the stressing over it just might. But, the last thing you think about is yourself at a time like that. You do mourn for your future, but only in so far as how your not being there will affect those you love and still need you.

Don’t put off going to the doctor if you think something is wrong. Make sure to get annual checkups and screenings. Try to eat healthy and exercise. We are only going to get one chance to do this thing called life right and make the most of it. And, you don’t want to let your loved ones down if you can help it.

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