Tag Archives: cancer

Beyond the Limits of Empathy: A Pain Too Great To Comprehend

“I did not know how to reach him, how to catch up with him… The land of tears is so mysterious.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.” J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Hello friend,

I have had a double whammy of friends in anguish lately. There are moments that their pains weigh so heavily on my heart that it seems I can hardly stand it.

The first came last week when I was sitting outside in the cold watching my son’s track practice with his good buddy’s mom, a dynamic, beautiful-hearted woman who has become my friend this year. As we sat shivering in our respective blankets, she shared with me that she was quite sure that her cancer–that I knew had been a recurring nightmare in her life over the course of several years–had just made a comeback. She had recently felt the physical changes that were its telltale signs and was waiting for her upcoming appointments and the scans that would make it official and thereby commence the fight for her life (again).

The news flattened me. The more it sank in, the more deflated I became. I tried to imagine the heartbreaking scenarios that must have been thrashing around nonstop in her mind as she waited: the empty helplessness of leaving her two young boys without a Mom, the guilt of leaving her husband alone to do the work they dreamed of doing only together, the milestones, and the million ordinary, extraordinary moments that come with loving your people wholeheartedly. I couldn’t bear these thoughts even in my imagination, so it baffled me how she could even be functioning with those cards in her hand.

After being enveloped the rest of the week in the cloud of her situation and prospects, ruminating every day in my journal on how she could handle it, I was hit with a second blast via a Facebook post. One of my oldest friends had lost his vivacious younger brother suddenly. At the age of 42, he was simply ripped from his joyous life and from his close-knit family.

My heart burst for them, especially my old friend. I just wanted to wrap my arms around him and absorb some of his anguish, to lighten his new life sentence in Grief. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut, imagining the wrenching pain and unanswered questions left by such a loss, amplified by its suddenness and his relative youth. How does one go on in the face of something that feels so wrong, so unfair? How blah does food taste? How pointless the television? In the ensuing days, I have often become aware of myself shaking my head, realizing that I was thinking about it again and going through that agonizing cycle of hurt and questioning. I think of my own brothers–who are not even as close to me as my friend was to his–and I shudder at the thought of losing either of them, ever, much less at an age so young. It is devastating.

Then I surface from my despair and realize that, as bad as it seems in my heart, these are not even technically my problems. I can even escape them with some denial or distraction. My friends are the ones who are truly carrying the burden. They are the ones with no fresh air when they wake up at night or sit alone in their car. No matter how heavy my weight of sadness is, no matter how much I feel for them, I see now that I can’t feel like them. I can’t reach that level. It is just not the same, no matter how empathetic I am.

My reaction to that realization, as my heart translates now, feels a lot like guilt. I feel bad–weak, like a poor friend–that I can’t fully feel their pain with them, like I am letting them down somehow by not being as deep in the trenches of struggle as they are. I guess it is because my idealistic self wants to believe if I could put myself exactly in their emotional shoes, that I could somehow take their pain away, at least some of it, by sharing the load. But I can’t.

I think that is one of my “middle age realizations,” something I didn’t register when I was younger: we don’t really know anyone else’s struggle. We can’t fully know their pain because we aren’t in their skin. And even if we have experienced “the same thing” (e.g. each having endured the death of a sibling), we had different relationships and different pasts and different natural abilities to cope with Life’s inevitable tragedies and hardships.

I used to be sure that I was a true empath, that my ability to feel other people’s pain and understand them completely was almost supernatural. I don’t believe that anymore. I know I feel horribly for so many people who have been wronged by Life in any number of ways and want badly to ease their burdens, but at this age I am finally coming to grips with the fact that that doesn’t count for having walked a mile–much less a lifetime–in their shoes. It isn’t much at all, actually.

It illuminates another of my later realizations: compassion doesn’t count for much unless you are willing to act on it. It is all well and good to feel horribly for a friend with cancer or a sibling going through divorce or a family in your community who just lost their home or a whole race of people who were enslaved or robbed of their land, but if you aren’t willing to reach out and do something for them–a kind word, an apology, a meal, reparations, a hug, your time, your attention, your labor, your teaching of others–then your compassion is just wasted potential. You have to do something.

Maybe I am just getting old and this is what “wisdom of the elders” looks like, but it sure hurts my heart to know that as badly as I feel for my loved ones, I can’t even scratch the surface when it comes to their pools of personal pain. That is a hard lesson. Sometimes learning is no fun. But what is the alternative?

How about you? How much do you feel the pain of others, and how does that play out in your life? Open up your journal and explore your experiences with hardships and tragedies? Start with your own. What are the most difficult, most painful experiences that you have gone through in your life? Whose deaths have you had to face? Which relationships have ended or been severely damaged? Have you faced a health crisis? Have you been abused? Have you lost jobs painfully or wrongfully? Have you had to move away from loved ones or had them move away from you? Have you been the victim of a damaging crime, such as a sexual assault? Have you experienced war? Natural disasters? Have you lost your home or been in financial ruin? What else has left you traumatized? How alone did you feel when facing these crises? Did it seem that there was much that your loved ones could do for you emotionally, no matter how much they cared? Did it feel as though the burden was yours alone to carry, or could the compassion of others lighten your load? How would you rate the empathy of the people in your life at the time of your hardships? Could they understand your pain? Did you try to help them to understand? Was it worth the effort? Now turn it around. What are the biggest tragedies and crises that your nearest and dearest have had to face? Go back through the list of the questions above? Which ones have they gone through? Which are happening now, or at least most recently? How have you reacted to their situations? How badly do you feel when bad things happen to other people, whether you know them or not? Do you consider yourself highly empathetic, moderately, or not very? Does that vary widely depending upon your relationships and similarities with the afflicted (e.g. I have people in my life who are deeply caring and compassionate within their families but cannot seem to summon the slightest bit of empathy when it comes to different ethnic groups or religions or social classes; it is very disturbing.)? Have you been good about expressing your compassion (i.e. is it clear to others that you feel them?)? Have you found that your empathy has helped people in their times of tragedy? Does it make them feel better that you feel bad for them? How do you show it? Words? Simple presence? Hugs? Meals? Donations? Errands or other conveniences? Prayers or positive vibes? Do you sense that there is a line in each case that, despite your best intentions and best efforts, you simply cannot get a full sense of the pain someone is feeling, that there is a level of darkness that your light can never reach? How does that make you feel? Helpless? Frustrated? Relieved? When do you feel most alone? In that moment, is there anything that anyone can do? At the end, does each of us have our own final say in our recovery from tragedy and hardship, a point when others have done all they can and we have to shoulder the load of our survival and our happiness? Even if you believe that to be the case, is there ever an excuse to bail out and become less compassionate to the struggles and burdens of others? Leave me a reply and let me know: How deeply do you feel the pain of other people?

Give your heart,

William

P.S. If today’s letter resonated with you, please share it as you see fit. Let’s awaken our hearts to the pains of other people and then do the work to ease those pains.

P.P.S. If this type of self-examination appeals to you or someone you care about, check out my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailers.

What’s Your Sign? Horoscopes, Zodiac, & Other Random Nonsense

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” –William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Hello friend,

I am 44 years old, and right up until this week, I didn’t know who I was. Imagine that: the guy who writes to you every week about improving your self-awareness had no clue about himself! For all of my high-minded prodding to uncover your purpose, to explore your strengths and weaknesses, to march to the beat of your own drummer, and to live your Truth, all along I was just flying blind. Clueless.

Until now.

Now I know.

I know my strengths and weaknesses. I know what kind of career I would excel at. I know how all my relationships will unfold and what has doomed my previous ones. I know who to stay away from and who to get closer to. I even know what my main challenges and breakthroughs will be for today, and even for this week, month, and year. I pretty much have all of the answers figured out now for this little game called LIFE. It should be a walk in the park from here one out.

I guess I was just too stubborn all these years, thinking I would have to carve out my own path through LIFE. I took all of those old adages like “March to the beat of your own drummer” and “Be true to yourself” to heart and figured that since there was only one of me, faith in my heart and mind as my internal compass would have to suffice to carry me through this uncertain world. My intuition would guide me, helping me make the difficult decisions as they arose. I would be unique, and my path would be beautifully my own.

What a fool I was!

I even knew that everyone else was getting the answers to the test for free. They were there all along and I simply refused to acknowledge them, trusting my instincts to get me to my destination instead of using the free map that everyone else was peeking at. It was there everyday in the newspaper.

The Horoscope.

For as long as I can remember, I have been totally repelled by horoscopes and all things Astrology. I saw them there in my local newspaper as a kid and in the magazines. I understood the idea of them—and I even heard from someone that I am a Libra—but I could never quite bring myself to read them. I cannot explain it, because I have always been a curious guy. Maybe the young Catholic in me sensed something forbidden in it, as though merely dabbling in the stars was akin to Devil worship. Maybe the radar in my naturally logical, analytical mind sounded loudly in the presence something so seemingly fanciful. Whatever it was, something in me just wouldn’t go there.

Interestingly (at least to me), I have always wanted to visit a highly-regarded psychic to get a personal reading. Maybe I would think it was hogwash afterward—depending on how much I wanted to agree with what the person said about my future—but I am very open to it in theory. Horoscope stuff, though? Somehow, just no. Never.

But hey, let’s face it: I have been working hard at finding my own way through this Universe for a long time, and it doesn’t feel like I am very far along. I have big stuff I want to accomplish, and frankly, at this point I could use all the help I can get. What’s the old Thomas Jefferson quote? “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” Something like that. Anyway, I am overdue to try something new. Horoscope, anyone?

Trying to be open-minded but admittedly cringing a little bit inside, I have spent the last few days as a student of Astrology, scouring the many Internet sites to learn about the twelve signs and how they interact. I certainly am no expert yet, but I have an understanding about my own sign, Libra, and the signs of my family members. I figure I know just enough to decide whether knowing it is going to help me or not.

So what about my Libra self?

Well, for starters, Libra is one of the three “Air” signs—along with Gemini and Aquarius–which means I am generally very social and rational. The 25% of us Air folks would be thought of as thinkers and talkers.

As for the Libra in me specifically, I like things to be fair and harmonious. I can’t stand injustice or cheating of any sort, and my reactions to unfairness might be taken so far to be socially inappropriate. But that is the only time I am unhappy: when I feel like I have been wronged. I like the outdoors and trying new things. I like sharing with people, and I make decisions that benefit the most people, even if it means sacrificing my own benefit. I cannot stand to be alone and must do everything in a partnership or team alliance. I don’t like to be in charge of my team, but I do want my voice to be heard. I have a very sharp mind and get absorbed and inspired by good books and deep conversations with fascinating people. I am gracious and diplomatic, avoiding confrontations, including violence, at almost all costs. And yet, I dislike conformity. I love beautiful things and surround myself with them. I am a hopeless romantic. I tend toward self-pity, can be superficial, and I hold grudges. But my biggest failing is my indecisiveness. This can come off as laziness or absent-mindedness, but it really comes from me weighing all things carefully to achieve balance. In any case, I am very wishy-washy.

As for my current Libra world, the horoscope has told me a few different things this week. Apparently, I have a lot of work to do and should stop resisting change. I have to trim my friend list and do lots of other work on my relationships (because I am so social, remember?). On Thursday, a good friend was supposed to surprise me and teach me a lesson, and I needed more focused energy to get my stuff done. On Friday, I was to have some good career ideas that wouldn’t help my relationships, and I was going to share “TMI” in a social situation (which was a problem on Wednesday, too, believe it or not). I have a lot of relationship stuff happening!

But that’s just how it is for us Libra people. You know us: me, Gandhi, Vladimir, Putin, Snoop Dogg, Kim Kardashian, John Lennon, Jimmy Carter, and Bruno Mars. We can’t help ourselves. The stars made us do it!

Okay, seriously, how accurate was it? How well did Astrology nail my essence? Am I a classic Libra? Did the horoscope ring true with my week?

Not so much. 

Well, to be fair, I thought some of it hit the nail on the head. I really am highly sensitive about issues of injustice, including injustice done to me (for which I do hold grudges!). I do like the outdoors and trying new things. My mind is pretty sharp and inspired by deep-thinking books and people. I am nonviolent and dislike conformity. Those are all very Libra-like. I started thinking that those astrologists might be onto something!

Unfortunately, other Libra characteristics were so very unlike me that my excitement soon waned. The biggest bust was one of the most important Libra traits: their social butterfly personality and distaste for being alone. That could not be further from me! The other major Libra trait that missed was the indecisiveness. I am very clear about what works for me. Several smaller traitscc didn’t seem to fit, either.

Then there were the horoscope predictions. That stuff didn’t resonate with me at all! On a few things, I was like, “Maaaaaybe I could see that.” But mostly, it was, “Hmmmm…… No!”

I perused the zodiac signs of my wife, kids, and parents, too, just to see if perhaps I was an aberration (as I seem to be in many aspects of my world!). My wife’s Taurus description came the closest, though even that one was hit-or-miss with the traits. My children, who are quite different from one another, have the same sign—you know, like me and Kim Kardashian–so I was left to scratch my head there, too.

I checked the other signs as well, just to make sure I hadn’t been misplaced at birth (as has long been rumored in my height-challenged family). I thought that Scorpio or Pisces were probably the best fit, then maybe Gemini, with a bit of Sagittarius and Virgo. But none of them produced the “A-Ha! THAT is me!” reaction I was hoping for.

All in all, I would have to give this experiment a FAIL. I am glad I did it, because it is good to know things. But, I suppose I was right all along in trusting my gut and staying far away from the Horoscope section of the newspaper. I always did have good intuition. Like a true Libra!

Oh, wait, no. Sorry, that’s a Pisces. Moving on!

How about you? How closely do you fit your astrological sign? Open up your journal and your horoscope. What do the stars say about you? Start with your Zodiac sign. Who does it say you are supposed to be? How accurately does that describe you? Which of the sign’s characteristics are a perfect match for you? Does that give you confidence that Astrology might have some answers for you? Which of your sign’s characteristics don’t sound like you at all? What does that tell you? On the whole, does the list of traits for your sign have more that match your personality or more that don’t? How confident are you in Astrology’s ability to be helpful to you? Does it make you immediately suspicious when something tries to pin down the 7 billion people in the world into only twelve different personality groupings? How long have you known about your sign? Do you check in on your daily or weekly horoscope readings? How accurate do they seem to be? Do you think that they make them so vague and general that each one could be a fit for just about anybody? Have you ever sought guidance for a particular question or problem from an astrologer or from your horoscope in a newspaper, magazine, or online? Was it helpful? Have you used the signs to find a love match (it says that my wife and I are a bad match, and my parents, too)? How did that go? Sum it up for me: how much stock do you put in this stuff? Is it a random pool of nonsense and gobbledygook, or is there really something here? Leave me a reply and let me know: Do you believe what the stars tell you?  

Believe in yourself,

William

P.S. If you enjoyed today’s interstellar journey, pass it along. Let’s fly together!

Scared to Death

DSC_1150“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” –Stuart Scott (1965-2015)

Hello friend,

I am a total mess today. I just learned a few hours ago that longtime ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Stuart Scott died this morning after a long battle with cancer. Even though I knew that this day would come, since I don’t watch much television, Stuart had been off my radar since his moving speech at the ESPY Awards this Summer, a speech that culminated with him calling his daughter up to the stage for a big hug. So, when I turned on my phone this morning and saw the headline, it was a gut-punch.

I sat there on my sofa with slow tears falling down my cheeks as I read the long tribute to Stuart and his astounding impact on those he loved and on the world of television sports journalism. Then I gathered myself and headed up the stairs, yelling to the kids that it was bathtime. Then, I crashed. I broke down in uncontrollable tears. I stood there in my bathroom and thought that I should mention Stuart’s death to my wife, a casual sports fan, in the other room. But when I tried to bring the words, I just sobbed harder, the tears pouring down and the breaths hyperventilated. Eventually I settled myself down enough to greet the kids with giant, hard-as-I-can-squeeze-you hugs as they came up the stairs. I asked them both to stop for a moment and look into my eyes so I could tell them with all my heart that I loved them and would always love them no matter what happens.

As I held tight to my two little angels, I couldn’t help but think of the two daughters that Stuart Scott left behind this morning when he finally let go. They were the reason he fought through three different bouts with cancer over the last seven years of his brave life. Seven years. That is a lot of surgeries, a lot of chemotherapy, a lot of pain, but, even more important, a lot of extra days with those two girls. Long enough to see one become a high-schooler and the other a college student. Precious years full of priceless moments.

It was those years and those miraculous moments between a father and his children that had me sobbing in my bathroom this morning. And it was cancer. Yes, it had much less to do with Stuart Scott, the man—whom I had always very much enjoyed and respected on ESPN over the years—than it did with fatherhood and cancer. I cannot stomach this combination. It terrifies me. More specifically, it haunts me.

A few years ago, my sweet cousin Heide died after another protracted battle with cancer. Still in her thirties, the disease simply devoured her, leaving her loving husband and two young daughters behind. This incident shook me on so many levels. Beyond the loss of someone I loved dearly, it completely rattled me regarding my own death and planted an obsession in my brain regarding cancer. I have gone over and over in my mind how Heide must have gone through her process, especially the latter stages, when her fate became not an “if” but a “when”. How did she talk to her children? How did she talk to herself? Where is that transition point from hope to no hope, and how did she navigate it? How much did she actively lament the loss of years with her children and husband, and where did she find the strength to accept that loss? How sure was she that her kids will remember her?

These questions haunt me. I agonize over them. Eventually and inevitably, they lead to vivid daydreams—“daymares,” I call them—in which I am the one riddled with cancer, and I have the task of navigating my dying months with my children. All sorts of dramatic, heartbreaking scenes play out in my mind, and I take myself through the experience of the anguish and devastation over the loss of time together, of me missing out on raising them and them missing out on their father for the rest of their beautiful lives. Tears flow, both in the vision and in reality, as the vision feels so vivid and raw. It tears my heart into bits. I cry even now as I write this to you.

I can’t say for sure how much of this stems from Heide’s death from cancer, how much is from the birth of my children, and how much is from something pre-existing in me. Whatever the combination, I believe that I am drawn to the visions—and to today’s death of Stuart Scott—because I think it is going to happen to me. I do. I hate to even say that, because I don’t want to put that idea out into the Universe. I don’t want the Law of Attraction to kick in and draw cancer to me just because these cases so persistently stick to my soul and my mind. It seems so morbid. But I also want to be honest with myself. I feel compelled to own up to this extreme dread I feel about cancer and the end of my own life. Those visions are just so real!

I desperately hope that my premonitions are wrong and that I will live to a ripe old age, watching children and grandchildren grow and flourish in health and happiness. I know, too, that there is no guarantee of any of it. I could have an aneurysm before this sentence ends. (Whew!) I could be hit by a car tomorrow. Worse yet, my kids could get hit by a car tomorrow. There are no promises here.

I know that the very best I can do is be fully absorbed in each moment and love them with all that I have, to not waste time and energy dwelling on the future or regretting the past. The present is the gift. So, I will do my best to wipe my tears and bring myself fully to the present with those I love. I will enjoy every moment that I am blessed with. I will live well. I will do my best with what I can control. The end will come when it does, so I will just take the ride. I know how lucky I am. Thanks be to God. Life is beautiful.

How about you? How do you envision your death? Get out your journal and expose yourself. Do you have premonitions of your end and the process leading to it? How vivid are they? Do they bring out strong emotions in you, like my sobbing? Do you become obsessed or preoccupied with these thoughts? How crippling is that? Do you have specific visions for the manner of your death (e.g. my cancer vision)? How old do you think you will be when you die? Are you okay with that age? Would you like to know the real answer—the date of your death? How would that affect the way you live right now? If you knew you would die one year from today, what would you change? If you have a long list of answers to that question, do you think that means that you need to make some changes anyway? Would you rather a loved one die of something protracted so you had a chance to prepare for their passing (e.g. saying what you wanted to say), or would you rather them go suddenly so you didn’t have to dwell on it while they lived? How do you accept the news of the death of others? I used to just say “Good for them!” and wish them well on their journey, then let it roll off of me. Now I am more prone to days like today, when a stranger’s death can really break me up. How much do you fear or dread your own passing? Has that changed as you have moved through life? How has it changed relative to new relationships in your life? For example, my mindset was “Take me anytime; I am ready,” right up until my kids were born, and now I cling desperately to life on Earth. Do loved ones give you not just a reason to live, but also a reason to dread dying? Does one particular way of dying (e.g. Alzheimer’s or ALS) seem particularly unappealing to you? If you had a choice, what would take you? It is a big topic: Death. And since none of us is immune, we must all make our peace with it at some point.   Or perhaps not. At the moment, I am in the NOT category, particularly if it is soon and cancerous. I cannot accept that combination. How about you: What makes you feel scared to death?

Give us your best today,

William

Clinging to Life on Earth

IMG_1029Hello friend,

I used to feel really prepared to die. I did. I didn’t have a death wish, and I wasn’t necessarily eager to go, but I definitely felt ready. Lately, though, I have swung completely the other way. I obsess over the possibility of my death. And it is not only mine; it goes for my wife and children as well. I think about it way too much. Worry. Fear. Dread. They are all part of the package. But why? How did I go from welcoming death to obsessively dreading it? How did I get this way?

When I was a kid and young adult, I didn’t think much about death. Like most people at that age, I felt pretty bulletproof. It simply didn’t occur to me that I might die at any moment. In my mid-20s, I went through a spiritual overhaul. I spent a lot of time contemplating God and my place in the Universe, and I became much more clear about what I believed. I felt intimately connected—united–with everything. It was a beautiful way to live, really. During those years of blissful union with the Divine, in particularly rapturous moments, I found myself saying out loud, “You can take me now, God, if you want. I am ready any time.” I guess I was just really solid in my belief that, no matter what form we are in, it is All God and will never be otherwise. The end is not in doubt.

With that thought as my foundation, it really just didn’t seem to matter to me whether I was “alive” or “dead”. The difference was only a superficial one. I loved the life I was living here on Earth, but I figured the next part was at least as good, so why not? I could go either way. When I heard of people dying, I thought two things: 1) Good for them; and 2)Bless their loved ones. I went along that way for a lot of years, loving life but welcoming death. The Grim Reaper was certainly not my enemy, nothing to fear.

That all changed suddenly on a hot Friday night in August of 2008. It was not a car accident, terminal diagnosis, or some other brush with death. No, it was, in fact, a brush with LIFE. My daughter was born. My whole world changed in a flash. The sun rose and set in her eyes. I hung on every breath, and the slightest smile from her could carry me through the day. But it was not this immense joy that she—and later her brother, too—brought to my world that completely turned my relationship with death. Rather, it was the responsibility. Yes, suddenly I was completely in charge of raising and nurturing this magical little creature to adulthood, and it needed to be the most loving, joyous upbringing ever. In order for me to insure that she had her greatest friend and protector, I needed to stay alive.

In that instant, death became my sworn enemy and greatest threat. It is true that my spiritual foundation did not suddenly fall to shambles. I still believed that All is God and that the end is not in doubt. I still believed it was going to be beautiful on the other side. And I knew that everyone on Earth figures out a way to carry on no matter what the circumstances, so they would make it without me. But I couldn’t have that. The idea of leaving them behind is a torturous one for me. Everyone always says that the worst thing imaginable is having your child die. I can see that so clearly at this point, which is why I have come to obsess in my dread of my children’s deaths. I have been reading and re-reading John Green’s novel, The Fault In Our Stars, lately. Its leading characters are kids with cancer, and I am just sick the entire time, not just in imagining my own children suffering from something so awful, but also in thinking about their parents.   What an awful, helpless feeling!

But I think that not so far down the ladder from that pain must be the idea of dying yourself and leaving your kids without you to raise them. Talk about helpless! A couple of years ago, my cousin Heide died of cancer. She was the mother of two amazing little girls. I have thought about her and her family a million times, both during her battle and, of course, after it ended. I can’t stop imagining how helpless she must have felt, knowing that she was not going to be there to nurture and watch her girls grow up and become women. I would be absolutely shredded by it. Just thinking about it knocks me into a state of shock. Unselfishly, I want to be of the utmost service to my kids every step of the way. Selfishly, it would absolutely eviscerate me to miss out on their daily magic. I want to be the shepherd, but I also want to be the witness.

It is also for these reasons that the thought of my wife’s potential death haunts me as well. As I said, I need my children’s upbringing to be the absolute best, most loving experience, and she is a crucial part of that. The kids need their mother, and she needs to be their mother. We have a vested interest in living this earthly life for a while.

Does this mean I will stop freaking out about death and return to my “Take me any time, God!” mode when they reach adulthood and no longer need the shepherd? I imagine the dread will diminish some, but not entirely, because the witness will still want to witness. I have no doubt that thoughts of missing out on their lives (and potentially the lives of their children) will keep me wanting to stick around to a ripe old age. Still, I think I won’t be as clingy to this life as I am now. My seeming desperation to live right now will more likely become a mere preference for life over death. Hopefully I can always maintain my focus on the present, secure in the knowledge that the best way to make the most of my time here is to stay in the moment rather than obsessing over the past or future, a future which certainly will include all of our deaths.

How about you? How desperate are you to keep living? Grab your journal and pen, and dig in. How do you react when you hear of someone dying? On a scale of one to ten, how peacefully do you think you would accept the news that you have only a year to live? How much does your family situation play into that rating? How much do your spiritual/religious beliefs affect your feelings regarding your acceptance of death? Has your acceptance of your mortality changed over the years? Do you think you would accept a terminal diagnosis better for yourself or for a family member? Obviously this topic is a deep and challenging one, but I believe it is very revealing and thus highly worth your while. So write! Then, leave me a reply. I want to know: Are you clinging to life on Earth?

Live like you mean it,

William