I called a man today, to hear him cry. I didn’t call wanting to listen to his tears – but I knew it was inevitable. The man I called had been diagnosed with bowel cancer, and the cancer had moved to his lungs.
I listened as his sobs grew stronger facing the despondency of his potential death. This strong kind man I knew was collapsing on the phone before me in a state of total powerlessness. It brought back waves of memories, reminding me of my own journey. For me the worst part of my cancer, was not the surgery, or the radiation or even the chemotherapy which at times crippled me in pain and weakness – it was the diagnosis.
At the moment when we are told our mortality is at risk there is no escape. We sit in a vacuum of confusion, our minds race uncontrollably to our demise. And when we see our death we see nothing past it. It feels like being in a slow motion car crash – a vehicle is out of control and all I can do is watch as I hurtle towards a wall. God that was the worst, the unknown and the uncontrollable conspiring to keep me in fear.
This does pass eventually and in the process to physically heal ourselves; we start to heal our spirit too. And for me, it was a start to see what it is all about. Not the cancer but about ourselves, our mission and our purpose.
I sat with him on the phone today and listened and talked. I just wanted him to know he wasn’t alone and death wasn’t knocking at his door. That perhaps like my cancer this was his chance to see what he was made of.
As his tears subsided he told me of small miracles he was now seeing, gentle tiny things that mean so much more when we think they may not happen again. He spoke of his grandchildren, their smiles, laughter and curiosity and he said “maybe that’s why I have to beat this, to be with them more”.
I think maybe that life without hope – is death. And hope isn’t just for our own survival but to do more, give more and live more.
In the past few months I have started to revisit struggles I had before cancer, falling back into the comfortable position of victimhood. Today my friend’s diagnosis reminds me – again – what it is all about.
Maybe death knocks on our door when we take this beautiful thing called life for granted. When I fill myself with expectations and wants I leave no room for gentle mercies like a kiss from a grandchild that loves you.
My friend sees a surgeon tomorrow and will map out the next part of his journey – I will sit with him again and I am sure he will cry.
I hope one day he will cry more, like I often do now. Not tears of anguish as much as tears of joy when I see unbridled love, tears of laughter when I share with those I am close to. And tears of longing to hold those who make my heart beat faster.
God life is so beautiful – why do I have to be near death to see this again.