Living Differently

12 Aug

Those who know me well have probably heard me say that my family lives differently than most. The reason is that my husband has type 1 or juvenile diabetes. Every day, when my husband leaves for work, I know in a very real way that it may be the last time I ever see him. I have seen my husband near death more than once as emergency crews saved his life, and it changed me in a profound way. You see, when you know in the most practical way that this really could be the last day you spend with someone you love, you live differently. You fight less and love more. You have a much clearer idea of what you want out of life, and you say the things that are important to say, hopefully in the kindest way you can. You learn to let go and let God, the Divine, the Universe take over and trust that everything will be just as it’s meant to be, unless you want to make yourself crazy.

Last night I found out that one of my son’s good friends lost a parent to cancer. The parents are self-employed and have some hefty medical bills. They have two sons about to leave for college; one for the first time. They have one son, adopted internationally, that is still at home. Through this entire process, they have been positive and uplifting and full of gratitude. Even the notice that shared his passing was a beautiful tribute to a man I wish I had known better because without knowing it, they have both made me a better person. They even inspired me to start this blog, and I will be forever grateful for their contribution to my life.

A few years ago, a beloved member of our community was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and was given only weeks to live. He lived about eight more months and also shared his journey in a blog. He was the father of two teen boys and the husband of his high school sweetheart. He was a teacher in our school district and coached several sports. He knew so many in our community and was loved by many. So many wanted to help, and this very private family shared the journey through cancer in a very public way. I know it took enormous courage to share with thousands of readers, and I hope that others were as uplifted by the faith filled words as I was. The illness also brought out the best in our community. Donations of every kind poured in, including meals, cash and vacations. I sometimes wonder if part of his life plan was to teach all of us to give just a little more and in some cases, a lot more. Just recently, his loving wife was able to marry again in a small ceremony she shared on facebook. She is now able to carry on her legacy of love with her new, blended family, and I wish her all the happiness in the world.

I once said to a group of people that cancer can be a gift. I might as well have said that Hitler was a great guy. I would have gotten the same look, but I think the gift lies in how you deal with cancer. Yes, cancer does terrible things to a body, but it often does beautiful things to a soul. Almost everyone I’ve ever known who has cancer releases the minutiae of life to focus on what is most important to them. In so many cases, they heal old hurts, release old grudges and focus on loving the important people in their lives the best they can. With my own father, we healed more in the six months before he died than we had in the previous thirty or so years he had been my parent. We didn’t fight at all. I read the Bible to him and sang Amazing Grace to him because it soothed him. I lovingly let him go because allowing him to be free of his suffering became more important than me wanting him to be here to watch his grandchildren grow up. We had the opportunity to heal our hearts and let go in love. To this day, I rejoice in the day that he left his body behind because he was free from physical and emotional pain. Notice I didn’t say left this Earth because I feel that a part of him shows up often. For me, that is seeing the number 451, which is a significant number in his life. Every time I see it, I always say hi to my dad.

Last night, I was talking to my son about his friend and his father’s passing and my son said something interesting. He said that when someone dies, you can either be sad, mad or happy, but the person is still gone. Nothing you do will change that. At first, I was a bit shocked by how callous those words sounded, but as I thought about it, I realized the wisdom in them. Like me, my son believes that the journey doesn’t end when the body ceases to function. He believes that there is something bigger and better than the life we live here. When my father in law was dying of cancer, he told one of our family members that he felt sorry for all of us. The family member was shocked and asked why. My father in law said that if he beat the cancer, he got to stay here with the family he loved and the wife he adored. If he didn’t, he got to go to an even better place and be with the Lord. For him, it was a win-win situation; talk about perspective!

I understand that everyone has their own process for dealing with loss, but what if we chose to grieve differently? What if every time we started to feel bad, we chose instead to send blessings to our loved ones, to ask for healing blessings upon ourselves and to rejoice in the best memories we can think of regarding that person? I know in the beginning that might feel awkward, but with practice it would get easier. With practice, we could get to the point where we can celebrate life instead of mourn death. With practice, we could live in joy and gratitude every day, so that when the day comes that a loved one passes, especially from cancer, that we can release them to a better place and know they’ll be there to welcome us when our time comes. Thanks for being you and have a great day.


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