Yesterday at Mass I was emotionally stopped in my tracks. There is a three year old little boy, who has cancer. I believe radiation and chemotherapy.
Yesterday was the first day I had seen him since I learned of his diagnosis. He had "the look"; no hair, scars from apparent surgeries, etc. These medical procedures however had no apparent impact on him yesterday. Here was this child, playing kissy face with his mother, happy, content and smiling. He was oblivious, at least at that point in time, of the disease that afflicts him. In fact, there was an essence of joy and contentment about it. I cried for him then, I cry now.
In my silent prayers at Mass I told God I'd trade places with him. Forty-four years may not be a long enough time to live, but three certainly is not.
And so, as I look ahead, I have to remember that moment and use it for strength during the tough times.
Below is a message posted on one of the message boards I monitor. It is from the daughter of a terminally ill man in April 1996. His comments are in quotes. Pay attention to the first sentence of his quote. This is what I have been trying to say for a long time.
I want to follow the thread on the endgame a little. My dad, age 76, is at the endgame after first diagnosis with Pca in 1988. The disease is hormone refractory and he has suffered a pathological break of the pelvis from the cancer. He is currently on no medication and actually says he is not in as much pain since the break as before. His PSA when last reported several months ago was greater than 900.
His response to the broken hip was to get out the walker we had earlier for my grandmother and rig it up with a bicycle basket. Initially this allowed him to help my mother around the house by setting the table, etc. When I've spoken to him by telephone the past few weeks, he tells me of how he has been out with his walker, a bucket of grass seed balanced in the basket and that he has been sowing the lawn. Last week, with his walker, he was out fertilizing azaleas that he will probably not see bloom again. His spirit amazes and comforts me. He wrote the following recently--and perhaps he can go more gently into that good night than one who is younger and who has young children of his own:
"Sudden, unexpected death simply terminates one's life, but death on the horizon takes on meaning; it forces one to try to wrap up one's life and bring it to a fuller and richer completion. My pending death, although frightening, especially when first confronted, has become an important part of my life. It keeps my life in clearer focus. Every day becomes more precious and I hope more fully lived.
My consciousness has been raised and my love deepened; the world has taken on a new splendor. While all of this makes life more attractive and whets my appetite for more time, it makes death a source of meaning that redeems it somewhat."
Of course the devil is in the dying and the wrenching and tearing of the lives closely woven with one's own. It is my hope that all the suffering involved in and occasioned by my death will be turned to some good -- that, for all of us involved, our sense of values will be clarified and our humanity will be purified and shine more brightly as we embrace and strengthen each other... There are blessings to be found even in dying and the loss of a loved one, if we are open to them..."