I was with her just after she was diagnosed, and did a portrait session of her at the time... which I knew inwardly her family might value when she was gone. It was a gift from me to her.
From the time she was diagnosed, we spoke often on Facebook, and I was able to follow her through her anger, through her bargaining, through her stubborn resistance, through her outright denial,through her entire grieving process. It tore my heart out.
One day, not long into her battle, in the midst of hearing her insist (yet again) that she would "beat this" and be "OK," I found myself getting emotional, and a bit indignant. So I wrote her a message that I'm sure made her angry. She was totally NOT expecting what I told her. Keep in mind that she had just been given the news that she had Stage 4 cancer.
She let me know that she didn't appreciate my sentiments. She snapped back, "Thank you. But I'm not hopeless. I still think I am going to make it.""I think you’ve been given a tremendous gift.""Having been a paramedic for as long as I was, one of the things that never ceased to amaze me was the realization that every single patient that I treated that passed away, mostly from trauma... Didn't plan on going home that day.
"They were completely unprepared. They never had a chance to prepare. They never got to say goodbye. They never got to make their wrongs right.
"Each and every one of them would have given all they had for what you have... a chance to prepare.
"I think the thing that all of us forget sometimes in our illusion of immortality, is that all of us... without exception... are going to die sometime.
"The thing that matters is what we do with the time we have left.
"It may sound funny, but serve others. Immerse yourself in service where you can. And give your children the gift of your time, so that they can continue to create memories.
"They will cherish that. And write. Give them a part of you to keep forever. Write your personal history.
Her response, while not unexpected, was disappointing to me. If only we could truly appreciate the gift of time that each one of us has been so graciously given. Time to heal. Time to forgive. Time to say goodbye. Time to create memories that we will cherish for the eternities. Time to do all the things we have been planning on doing "someday."
Someone told me that doctors rarely opt for treatment measures to extend their lives in the midst of terminal diseases... instead, knowing the kind of "quality of life" they will be extending for just a few weeks or months, they opt instead to prepare. And from my perspective, that makes so much more sense.
Time is a gift. This Christmas season, spend yours wisely. You never know when your time will be gone. It could be in an instant. I could be over the course of painful months and/or years. Prepare NOW.