This question was asked to me by my uncle who is suffering from lung cancer that has spread to his brain. He has been given days to live.
I did not know what to say. Should I tell him what I have heard? Should I try to change the subject? Should I lie? I froze.
I could have used logic and say “We are all going to die…” Or I could have minimized it and said “Don’t worry… you are fine…” Or perhaps I could have denied it and say “No, you are not .” Others would have probably used religion by talking about God and the “plan of salvation.” Would this be ok? Do I have the authority to talk to a dying person about what to do to go to heaven, when I have my own faults? My own doubts?
Death is such an awful thing to accept. It is difficult to finally face the reality that one day a loved one and all of us are going to cease to exist on this earth.
Cancer is a monster. It is a way for the cells to replicate faster than it can get rid of, ultimately killing the whole body. It is a way for the body to slowly commit suicide. Scary. If I had a completely objective mind, the thought of cancer would be simply a medical condition that just happens. But since I have feelings, goals, intentions, wills, and hopes, thinking about this makes be very uncomfortable.
Is it possible to accept death without any fear? I have learned that we all have a fear of death from birth. As babies we cry when hungry, cold, bored, or in pain. All of these experiences, if not taken care of, will ultimately lead to death. When we are adolescents, we crave for acceptance and identity, something that will lead to feeling abandonment, isolation , and ultimately death if not addressed. As adults, we want to marry, earn a career, have possessions, and have a purpose in life, which will bring us to depression and anxiety if not accomplished because it means that we will be closer to having or being nothing, which is related to death.
If we are going to die anyways, why do we fear is so much? It happens to everybody. Why do we always try to ignore it and pretend it is not going to happen? Is it the fear of the unknown? Should we learn to accept it as we learn to accept failures, discomfort and pain? Analyzing about why we fear death does not help me to alleviate the fear.
We have the concept of eternity. We long to live forever. Does this mean that we can actually live forever?
I don’t have the answers. I am not sure if anyone does. All I know is that one day we will all have to confront our end. I hope that before that happens, I will be able to do what I enjoy the most and gives me purpose in life: spend time with my children, paint, go to the beach, learn to play the guitar, visit other countries like Italy and Japan, and much more. Today is the day to do these things.
However, I also try to remind myself that I don’t want to be here simply to meet my own selfish desires. I want to also be other people’s blessings. I want to help others feel loved and important. I should not only strive for the things I want for myself. I want to also be part of a whole.
I recently read the quote “To be happy is not to have what I want.. but to want what I have”. Great words of inspiration! Being content with what I already have should be my life’s purpose. That is why I also long for simplicity.
Maybe being content with my current life will help me to accept death more. Maybe being happy with what I have accomplished and how I have blessed others should give me peace of mind. Perhaps wanting to continue to help others in need should be my ongoing journey until it all ends. Maybe death is like graduation. A stage in life where I look back and acknowledge my losses and triumphs, always thinking that it is all about helping my fellow human beings.
What did I actually say to my uncle you may be asking? I looked at those big green eyes staring at me…. thought for a few seconds and said “I don’t know for sure… all I know is that you are still here with us today…you have accomplished a lot in your life… and we are happy to have you right now…. because we love you.”