This is a day I have been dreading for the past year. It is one year ago today that I told my uncle over the phone that it was okay for him to leave us as he lay dying from cancer in Illinois and I sat in my car in a parking lot in Minnesota. It was one of those awful moments that I will always be grateful for because I got to be with this man I loved like a father through almost his very last breath.
It seems fitting to keep it short and simple today. What I am about to share with you isn’t just for those of you embarking on a long journey through cancer or any other type of drawn out illness. It is also for those of you who don’t anticipate a great loss any time soon because we are not guaranteed our next moment, day, week, year. The point is, no matter where you are at in your life journey, these are reminders for all of us on what to value in life. I wish someone had shared these thoughts with me near the beginning of our journey into cancer and I am grateful I learned them along the way.
1. Time is not a renewable resource. Money is a renewable resource. Spend money to gain more time with your loved ones. You can always find ways to pay off credit cards. You can’t get time back. (Use this advice with caution if you are not in the midst of a long-term illness as it is wise to manage your money well. The point is when you are in the midst of the battle, don’t sacrifice precious moments because you fear going over budget.)
2. Be fully present to what is. If you are laughing together, laugh. If you are crying together, cry. If your loved one is in pain, hold his/her hand. These moments are meant for your connection and for building memories. You will regret checking out. You will never regret being fully present, no matter how painful in the moment.
3. Support, don’t judge. Recognize we each have our unique perspective and approach to life. This especially applies to being in the midst of the battle. I often disagreed with the treatments my uncle chose to put his body, mind, and spirit through, but that’s just it. Those were his choices! I could argue out of fear and discomfort OR I could choose to put my own “stuff” aside and walk with him through it. The same applies when no illness battle is present. When we spend time judging another’s choices and process for anything in life, we lose precious connection and relationship time. Let the judgment go and embrace what you can learn from each person’s unique take on life and living.