Life in Death

I heard an expression that we are all an illness away from death when looking at it from the viewpoint of staying in good health.  In other words, our bodies are decaying every day and while we may feel fine overall, there may be something happening in our bodies that we are not aware of until we get the news that we dread.

While I want to live a long life, I know that eventually death will come.  I believe that how I live my life will make a difference in how I approach death.  In other words, I can live life well while I am in the process of dying or I can succumb to the feeling of defeat and live as if I am already dead.  Why am I talking about this and why from this perspective?  Because two people I hold dear passed away last year within a month of each other.  There were  similarities in how they lived their life.  One of them was my stepfather and the other was a good friend.  Both enjoyed life, enjoyed laughter, and showed interest in people around them.  Even as they each neared the end of their lives, they both cared about those that they loved and still lived their lives well.

I was there when my stepfather received the news that he had months to live.  The numbers and the way his body looked confirmed to his oncologist that he was indeed dying sooner than he thought.  He told her that if he would be able to walk on his sore knee and climb the steps he used to climb then he would be in excellent physical health.   Her response was that I do believe that your mind thinks that your body can do those very things, but your numbers and what I see visibly tell me you are dying.  She stated his best outcome was six months.  Sadly, he died four months later.  He had to learn to accept help from others throughout the process of dying, but I know it had to be hard for him as he was not a man who liked to ask for help.  He also loved his food so when he no longer had an appetite it really bothered him that he didn’t want to eat much.  Even the day before he died when my mom was pleading with him to eat something he still refused food.

The hardest part for me was seeing his body waste away to just a skeletal frame.  He wanted me to scratch his back, the day before he died.  He was so thin that I thought I would hurt him, yet he asked me to do it, perhaps because I was providing the most relief for his itching.  He had doubts about his eternal destiny and I tried to talk to him about it, but there were so many people there.  To this day, I do not know where his soul is residing, but I do take comfort in the fact that he was singing hymns with us that day.

The other person was my mentor.  He left his legacy on my life as he helped me along my personal journey as I worked through difficulties in my life.  He gave me what I needed to succeed in life.  I never expected him to get sick so suddenly and die about a year later.

I felt abandoned, scared, and very sad.  It was like grieving the loss of a father figure.  I could not imagine not seeing him again.  I was able to see him one more time before he got very sick and it was good to see him looking healthy, yet I knew his body was fighting cancer.  I was able to have that one more chance to say goodbye, making it a bittersweet experience.

Both will always be in my heart as I recognize the difference ways they have impacted me.   So thankful for both of them and what they contributed to my life.  The way they lived their life was a good example of a life well lived and how they accepted their death has impacted the realization that life is short and I need to live it to the fullest.  I do not want to get to the end of my journey with regrets of what I could have done to make a difference in other people’s lives.  I choose now to live in the present and look towards my future with expectancy and keep in mind to live life to the fullest in the present as I walk through my own journey.

In Loving Memory to both of these men.  May I live life as they did and follow their example.

©Kimberly Balles 2016 All Rights Reserved.

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