“If you could know the exact day and time you would die, would you want to know? Why or why not? Turn to the person next to you and discuss.”
And so began Pastor Kevin’s Sunday message a couple of weekends ago. I was completely unprepared for my response to the question. Normally I would respond, “Yes, so I could best prepare my family and get things in order.” Everyone around me answered that way.
I didn’t. Instead, I fought back tears for the rest of the service.
I don’t want to know.
I don’t want to know now because death has tainted the landscape of my little life. After church I brought Darrin into my fear and pain and let the tears flow. The tears were part of grieving “the loss of innocence.” Those are the only words I can come up with that somewhat describes what is going on in my heart. Before cancer, the thought of dying was way, way down the line, off the radar, really. Part of post cancer life for me is coming to terms with the emotions that got churned up during treatment that I was unable to process at the time. It took all I could muster up to get through the physical demands of surgeries, chemo and radiation. What I didn’t get to was embracing and feeling the reality that rather than a broken leg or getting my tonsils out, cancer can end in death. I have a new perspective on death.
It’s like getting engaged and sitting through a wedding ceremony.
It’s like finding out you’re going to have a baby and noticing all the strollers and car seats.
It’s like watching a movie scene about someone having an allergic reaction and then having a child with food allergies.
It’s like learning you are pregnant after having a miscarriage and struggling with allowing your heart to love a new baby who you may never hold in your arms.
Weddings and car seats and food allergies and miscarriages have always been around, but now they are personal. Each of those things have become part of my life experience.
For me, I notice every cancer billboard, radio commercial, TV ad of a bald kid, and every pink ribbon on a potato chip bag. When I hear of someone newly diagnosed, my heart sinks. It is personal now. And death is no longer a far away, eventual kind of thing. It is on my radar. And, God willing, when I die of old age and not from cancer I will have lived my life on purpose.
I don’t want to know. But I do want to live.
And there is a difference between existence and life. I don’t want to spend whatever days God has for me merely existing. I want to live fully and not live in fear.
Remember the former things long past for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” Isaiah 46:9-10