Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stamped at birth

I have a very close friend who is dying. She is my age, she has terminal cancer and there is nothing more anyone can do for her. Let me be clear here--I am NOT okay with this. I talk to her on the phone and I tell her I'm behind her and I accept her decision to stop chemo and not be sick for the time she has left...but really I'm not okay with this and I don't want to accept this. Clearly this is her choice and intellectually I completely accept what she has decided and obviously I am behind her every step of the way for however many steps she has left. I guess what I mean is that I'm not okay with the crap the universe is throwing at her. Where should I register my complaint?

Because here is the thing--would any of us like it if we were born with stamps on us that said how many minutes, hours, days or years we would get to be here? Would we, for example, love a child less who we knew was going to die? I was in the OR two weeks ago to witness the c-section delivery of a baby who we thought would get minutes and, instead, she got days. Some would call this sad, but it was nothing short of a miracle. What love she got for those days! What if, when I met my dying friend back in college, I knew that she would die at age 36? Would that have changed our relationship? Would we have done more? Would I now care less about her?

I'm a firm believer in living every day as if it is your last. Tuck your kids in with enough love to last a lifetime because who knows when you'll get that chance again. But believing in this is one thing--living it everyday? I try so hard, I really do. But the reality is that I have three living children who are in three different places at any given time in the day. I have homeschooling stuff to plan, laundry to do, meals to prepare...and that doesn't even count the volunteer work I do that takes up considerable amounts of my "free" time. I admit to getting overwhelmed at times--don't we all. But here is the other thing--I have gained the ability to step outside myself, look at what I am doing and pull myself back down. This morning I had a list of things that "had" to get done with Erin. She began to fight it and I began to fight her. When the dust settled and the smoke had cleared, you know what? I decided that tomorrow is another day and so we decided to huddle over the chess board instead of fight over math. Some people would see this as a "waste" of a homeschool day and point out that now I'm off my schedule. But know what? If, Universe Forbid, Erin's stamp reads "6years, 245 days" then I will have no regrets.

My dear friend may only have a year or so left. 365 days. 52 weekends. And, sadly, all I can think about is the regrets. The times we "should have" done something cooler or more interesting. The times we didn't get together because one of us didn't want to drive or something came up with my kids. The times I wasn't as supportive as I should have been...those times I could have pulled myself back down and refocused on what was really important--our friendship. So for all the times I said, "It's a duck!" I'm sorry. Truly sorry. Perhaps it really was a swan*.

*sorry, this is an inside joke! And also put that picture on my list, please.

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