Archive for November, 2019


During the past several months, I’ve been dealing with ongoing mobility and pain. Some days, just getting out of bed is a gift from God. Other days, I can’t find the right place to rest. Regardless of sitting sideways against a chair, in a recliner, or laying down, relief hasn’t been overtly forthcoming,

This past Saturday, I dreamed I was an astronaut on an extended mission, taking us past the edges of the solar system. Exiting the solar system, we found our supplies depleted. System failure alerts registered life support ending in 24 hours (Yeah. The clock could have been hours, days, or months. For this post, I’ll accept 24 hours.) All aboard unequivocally took the facts.

  1. No miracle was forthcoming;
  2. Time was shorter than thought; and
  3. To make the best use of time, every crew member had the chance to do one thing

The pain awakened me from the slumber. Unable to return to sleep, I stumbled to the recliner and meditated for an hour. Once asleep, my dream returned to the previous moment. Crew members rotated the ship toward a previously unknown galaxy filled with bright stars.

“You can join us here,” an internal voice spoke. “All that’s required is the willingness to accept.

The dream remains as vivid today as it did Saturday. Can dreams speak? Was God telling me some inner sanctum of wisdom? I do believe there are lessons. And maybe, in an indirect way, God spoke. Here are my takeaways.

First

Time is shorter than thought. My body was saying that things are progressing in such a manner that any idealized notion of time was incorrect. In April, my doctors stated that maybe I had two good years of life. Maybe my body was screaming, “Hey, dude. This is happening quicker than you thought. Get your a** together.” The body has an inert compass, critical of telling both time and distance. The question becomes whether one dares to listen.

Second

While I have zero notion of any cure, this dream reinforced that there’s no miracle. No doctor will come upon me, take pity, and inject some magic serum that produces a treatment within days. Nope. Nada. Many cancer patients walking hospital corridors of appointments have some distant inward hope of a cure – to be the one in a million miracle. In truth, I have no such illusion. And my body was reinforcing the unlikelihood being the exception. The physical side of me told me straight up.

Third

Bucket lists are for the young. Those walking a similar path like mine may want to plan that once-in-a-lifetime trip, event, thing, or celebration and do it. Each crew member had a chance to decide what they wanted to do during the last 24 hours. Some chose to point the craft toward galaxies seen that could not be touched, to enjoy eternal beauty, sight unseen, uncharted. Others decided to celebrate life in peace and tranquility, meditating upon the gift of life. I chose to enjoy the rapture of Westerlund 2; a stellar breeding ground 20,000 light-years away.

Over the past eight months, I’ve poured through a couple hundred’ bucket lists.’ In reality, my body was saying I am more likely to be able to do a handful of things. My dream presented me with some thought. In the time remaining, “What do I care about?” If I focus on my life’s purpose, then maybe I can align my actions with the deepest values.

During a Stephen Covey seminar, attendees were once instructed to craft a mission statement. After several weeks, I finally penned out something personal and purposeful.

Paint each person met with beautiful brushstrokes of love and beauty.”

Admittingly, I failed on many levels. However, I wasn’t a complete failure. Mission statements force us to continually refocus, detect where we’re off track, and realign. it’s not an ‘end game.’ It’s a purpose. True, one can look at failures, but don’t forget to review the successes.

Fourth

(Here’s the spiritual part.). I am not alone. Whether seen or unseen, there is a spiritual component that cannot be accurately articulated. Other travelers shared the same journey. Truth be told, as you wander from medical appointment to medical appointment, you’re likely the same folks. And you’re likely to recognize a loss from those who are missing from the same said appointments.

Indeed, some of us will physically die alone. That fact is something I neither wish to discount nor take for granted. Single people, widows and widowers, the estranged, even adoptees may feel or experience death’s lonesomeness. Instead, what I’m referring to was inspired by my father’s own near-death experience in 2000, when after awakening from a near-fatal blood clot, he stated that even when he thought of dying, he was not alone. Relatives and angels were present to help and guide him.

Therein lay my argument. I do believe if you die, there will be someone or some spiritual presence to greet you. In the past several weeks, I have been visited several times by a friend who passed in 2013. Before this year, the last time she visited was February 2014.

Sometimes, your friend may be a cat. Oscar, the hospice cat, is known for his ability to predict death and comfort patients who will soon pass away. Oscar’s story is so compelling that Dr. David Dosa, a health researcher at Brown University and a geriatrician working with patients at the Steere House, actually wrote an entire book about it. Somehow, Oscar senses that the end is coming for a patient, would find the patient, and crawl up to them for comfort and hold a little vigil in their honor.

Fifth

Acceptance and embrace that there is something better, different, and more beautiful than an aging body. As instructed, all that’s required is the willingness to accept.

Many hide from death in secrecy, fear, and weakness. We retain a façade, refusing to be authentic, vulnerable. But the truth is, we live with an awesome God who has a whole other reality we’ve never known. As a spiritual person, I don’t believe my dreams lied. There’s no harm in the acceptance of something greater. Moving from this life through through death, leaving this world, and onto another does not have to be fearful.

We are not alone.

I’m seven months into a twenty-four-month sentence, seven months since I read my diagnosis online. As I continually move onward into autumn – life’s autumn – I’ve come upon a couple conclusions: Time flies quickly, and dying’s not easy.

It’s hard not to realize just how the days are numbered. Correction, how my days are numbered. The days of my youth are unrecognizable. High school remains a distant memory. College dreams faded like over-ripened flower petals. And friendships have come and gone like freshly evaporated dew found of a desert morn. 

I am sympathetic to the ‘unaware.’ Working in healthcare has left me surprised at how many are both shocked and unprepared. Most of us aren’t ready for death. Heavy sighs and universal comments follow death, “I always thought we (substitute wife, father, husband, son, daughter, etc.) had more time.”

I’ll admit it hasn’t been easy. Much to my disillusionment, both pain and number of bad days have increased by the month. Between work and disease management, there’s been little comfort, little space to dwell in the emotional realm, and thoughts of reconciling conversation gave way to pain medication.

Yesterday I looked at my calendar and froze. Seven months post-diagnosis, even I thought I’d more time. 

However, here’s lessons I’ve learned thus far.

  • Regardless of how I hide my illness, I realize dying has an impact. When I look at my family, it’s hard to believe my father remains alive and will quite possibly outlive me. I will never fully understand how my departure will impact the family who remains.
  • Forget dreams. Live every day. I had visions of becoming a great writer. I didn’t become a great writer. I rely upon spell check, and grammar checkers like cars need gas. Without those modern assets, my college English teacher would concur that I, in essence, “Suck.” Yet, I write my blog notes when I can. And through it, I lived my dream versus dreaming of it.
  • I once entertained thoughts of saving the world. Throughout my years of life, only once did I receive an award for bravery. In truth, my part felt pretty much overrated. I never placed myself in jeopardy. Why? Simply because we were trained to mitigate the risks. Instead, I honored the men and women who did save the world. Walking among the graves of a national military cemetery in the Midwest, I found true saviors – men and women so much braver than I. 
  • Remain joyful for the gifts received: the many moments of fun, the travel, the cultures, love of others, and the food. But I leave others with insightful, loving thoughts. In turn, I hope they help pay it forward. Take care of the people in your life, and they’ll take care of you.
  • Believe in yourself. Don’t wait on others to accomplish something positive. If you write, write for yourself. If you’re music, be the harmony of notes others need to hear. 
  • Do not fail waiting for someone to drag you out of a ditch. You are just as good as anyone else.
  • Sometimes, you must turn a deaf ear to what others say is impossible. 
  • Don’t be afraid to get back on the bus. A mother once sent her son off to school on the bus. After returning home, the doorbell rang. Opening the door, the mother saw her son. 

What are you doing here?” 

I’m quitting school. It’s too hard, boring, and long.” 

The mother frowned, “That’s life, now get back on the bus.

Regardless what life tosses, get back on the bus. Embrace the days. They are all you’ve got. Rather than keep our heads above water, surviving but not “living,” Focus on living.

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