,Today I am going to write about a topic I have never addressed before on this blog. We are going to talk about death. Like your typical young professional, death is not a part of my daily reality. I am (relatively) healthy and well. I do all the things my doctors say to keep my body humming along. Death hardly ever occurs to me… until it became the one thing I thought about constantly.
One of my family members was diagnosed with cancer about 18 months ago—around the time I opened Serenity Place DC. My family told me about the diagnosis, but they also spared me the gory details. They wanted me to be able to focus on my dream. So, I didn’t know that she had ovarian cancer, or that it had spread to other organs and lymph nodes. I didn’t know that the first round of chemotherapy and radiation was unsuccessful. I was wrapped up in my own little world, where there was no room for the details of oncology treatments. I assumed the chemo and radiation would work. I knew she would be okay. I was convinced that she would beat cancer.
I was wrong on every front. The oncology team at Memorial Sloan Kettering tried a second course of chemotherapy and radiation last fall. Although it took out all her hair and made her lose her appetite, the treatment did nothing to shrink the cancer cells. The tumors kept growing. A few weeks ago, the doctors told us there is nothing else they can do. They have ordered hospice. My loved one has moved in with her son, and a nurse comes to visit her regularly to check on her and make sure she is as comfortable as possible.
I had plans for the first weekend in March. I was going to hop in my new convertible and drive to the beach. I needed to spend a little quiet time with the Lord in nature. Beaches and the woods are my favorite places to contemplate the wonder and goodness and greatness of God. It is always a time of isvara pranidhana (Divine worship). Despite planning my outing for weeks, I canceled it after I got that final doctor report. Instead, I drove three hours to my mother’s home in South Jersey. The next day, she and I drove another two hours to visit my loved one. After visiting for a few hours, we drove back to Jersey. Early the next morning, I drove home alone to DC.
Why? Why did I travel nearly 600 miles round-trip in a car in three short days? Why did I spend more than 10 hours driving to upstate New York from my home in DC? Why did I do all that to only spend a few hours with her? Because I wanted to. I wanted to be able to see her one more time. I have no idea when she will breathe her last breath, and when the life will ebb out of her body. So, I am taking advantage of every moment that I can.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
Although I am young and healthy, although I should expect to live a long life, there are no guarantees. So often, I put off the simple pleasures of today, assuming that I can enjoy them tomorrow. I don’t pick up the phone to check on my friend. I don’t buy the flowers from the street vendor. I miss seeing the movie in the theater that sounded really good.
When I got back from seeing my loved one, when I saw how weak she was and how labored was her breathing, I knew that the end was inevitable and near. I am going back to visit her again for Easter. I also decided I wouldn’t keep putting off my joys until tomorrow. I donned my Duke Blue Devils tee and watched two ACC tournament games last week. I also traveled to Philadelphia to go to the Flower Show, and came home with dozens of flowers, beautiful jewelry, gorgeous ceramic nesting bowls, and lovely scented oils. I will recapture some of the magic of that spectacular visual experience each day I look at the flowers, wear the jewelry, use the bowls, and wear a little of the oil.
What simple joys have you been putting off?
Make a list now of five things you have wanted to do for yourself, and pick one to do this week. Do another next week, and a third the week after. Continue this habit, nurturing yourself day-by-day. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us.
A Japanese Ikebana arrangement
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.