The question usually comes with curiosity and quietness. The inquiry takes various forms. For those who know my faith, the answer is still not evident which may say more about them than me. Will I opt to use the new law and die sooner, without suffering? I have made this decision without proper discernment, I suppose, but the answer is that I am in this for the long haul. I am unsure why this particular adventure has been gifted me but I do believe that God has already used my illness for good and will continue to do so, even when my health really begins to shift.
I am not dying to die. In truth, some days I am so stuck in the present moment that I procrastinate doing what needs to be done for the future. I have chosen to live as fully as I can right here and right now. I was given a short time frame which I have exceeded by generous measure. This brings me to a myriad of questions: If I had chosen to die sooner, what glory would I have missed? What lovely memories with friends would never have been created? What beautiful conversations might never have been had? How many opportunities to say and hear I love you would have been lost?
I have tried not to let fear rule my heart, mind and spirit since becoming ill. Most days this works well. I am very in tune with my body; I always have been. My faith is strong, and growing stronger as time passes. My mind can be foggy lately and I miss the clarity that brings marvelous ideas and retains concepts. I note the changes and move forward. Nothing about what is happening to me makes me want to leave this world yet. That does not mean I am not ready to go. Simply put, I have loved this life dearly and yet I known that Heaven is my real Home. I will stay as long as God desires me to be here and I will surrender gracefully when I am called to go.
I do not understand the thinking of asking another to take my life to end my suffering, especially prior to any horrible suffering. I do not know how much I will suffer or if I will at all. I do not wish to bring a burden on anyone who would end my life. I know that there are physicians who believe they are doing the right and merciful medical intervention by ending a patient’s anguish. Some families and friends agree with this stance. I cannot judge these people. I can assert though that this is not my choice. My model remains the Suffering Servant who did not shy away from those final moments when He could easily have demanded that cup to be removed and Scripture says He did ask but chose instead to stay the course and do the will of the Creator.
When a dear friend was in his final weeks, some of us stopped by to visit. He had slept most of the time we were together. I turned before I stepped out the door into the night for one last look. Our eyes locked, a smile spread across his face, and a slow wave danced across the floor into my heart. One of my last memories of him, I cherish that love that was given one more time after our lengthy friendship. I cannot predict if I will have moments like that with my tribe but I hope so. I do not want a single moment to be taken away from my life if it affords a memory that will last a lifetime.
What is it about suffering that scares us, both as patient and observer? Why do so many of us want to flee from it? I have learned much about loss and grief in these few years of my cancer. Suffering and pain are not only physical. The slow stripping away of who I am–or more accurately–who I thought I was–has been enlightening and freeing. I know that when my health begins to deteriorate that will also teach me valuable lessons. A friend out west often asks me to share the wisdom I am learning along the way. I hope that I can say something more in the days ahead about not dying to die that will be helpful for people who face this decision. I remain grateful for each day, even when my energy allows me to do only a fraction of what I used to do. I marveled at the ice sparkling in the sun today, despite every step being heavy and tiring. I want to live each day still with gratitude and joy. Will you join me?
How does suffering scare you?
Can something beautiful come from suffering?
Suffering Servant, you are a model for us. May we take courage that you know our pain and anguish as you accompany us through the valley of death and to our own calvaries. We walk in your footsteps. May we know your presence each moment. Amen.