Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What If You Treated Everyone Like They Might Die Tomorrow?

I came across this Huffington Post article on my FB news feed last week or so, "What If You Treated Everyone Like They Might Die Tomorrow?"  and I reposted it at the time, but I want to talk a bit more about it today.  This is sort of an Australia story but not really.

During my time in Geelong I was actively involved with a running group (one story about them here).  The crew is a real blast, and two members of the group were Phil and Liz.  When I met Liz, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, unfortunately I didn't know when her diagnosis was made but she was being treated at that time.   (Geelong friends, please forgive me if I've misreported what I know about Liz's illness.  I tried not to pry too much)

Phil and Liz have been long-time members of the running group.  I'm not sure exactly when they started but I got the impression it was sometime back in the 80s when the group was new.  The "feel" of the running group is one of family.  Everyone has been friends for years and years - celebrated lots of birthdays, weddings, tragedies... it's all in the family.  I was a little unusual in that I was a bit younger than everyone else, as well as foreign, but everyone was so sweet and welcomed me with open arms.  Moving to a foreign country is rough, and my running "family" made it a bit easier.  One of the members, Kathy, took me out for a full day of fun back in the spring.  Good people.

I recently learned that Liz passed away due to her battle with cancer.  I can only imagine the sadness that her family is experiencing.  Losing someone to cancer is so difficult - feelings of anger, trying to make the most of the time you have left, trying to plan for the future but also doing your best to live in the moment.  Cancer robs you of the chance to "live", and I'm talking about "living life through family and moments of joy" not biologically living.

I enjoyed the short conversations I had with Liz at the runs she felt well enough to attend.  I think the above photo captures her spirit very well even though I only knew her for a short time - so colorful, always a big smile, always something good to share (a story/a grandchild's visit).  The running group has posted some great photos from all the years that Phil and Liz have been running.  I'm happy to see them (and her family) celebrating her life.

You do your damnest in this life - work hard, love those around you, make a future, hope for happiness.  Some of use are lucky enough to live a long life, others' lives are cut short.  But did you live a full life?  Some would argue that if a life is ended early, that they didn't live a full life.  Maybe that's true, but maybe a lot of "living" was done at the end.

So back to this article, I/we need to live as if everyone around us going through cancer.  Technically, we're not all going through cancer, but we're all going through telomere shortening and aging (some of us are aging a bit more naturally than others, haha).

From the article:
"There's apparently a certain grace extended to those who were nearly lost that other, 'luckier,' ones don't receive. I guess almost dying and having an unknown prognosis gives you some sort of pass. Not that I receive perks or free stuff. I'm talking about gentleness of attitude, and mercy."

I'm no saint, but why can't we extend this culture of kindness to everyone?  Why do we have to wait for something bad to happen before we start "living"?  Don't wait to live, start yesterday.  Spend that extra 6 seconds to be kind.

Miss you Liz.  On-on.

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