She was in a chair, drying her nails, when I sat next to her. I could tell she was not feeling well. And, the scarf covering her head was the tell-tale sign. I started a conversation and our small talk turned to serious talk and she told me she was at the end of her battle. But, she said, “the cancer isn’t going to win because it’s dying with me.” Mother of three, teens and twenty-something. She’d been battling for a few years. But, now she was going to stop fighting and live.
I asked if she minded a personal question (of course she said “no”). I wanted to know how she got through her days not crying or feeling scared about leaving. (I cried asking her the question and she gave me a Kleenex from her purse – as if she kept them for those of us who couldn’t keep it together!). She started talking (I felt like I wanted to take notes but that seemed rude) and I was mesmerized by our conversation. Here’s what I got:
1. “I’m thankful I get to say good-bye my way and on my time. How great is it?” She told me that at her stage of the game, you find the joy in everything, including saying good-bye. She said, that it was hard sometimes but she just takes one moment at a time. She said she closed her eyes as her feet were being massaged at the salon. She didn’t read a magazine or talk with anyone — she just enjoyed the wonderful feeling of the moment.
2.The notion of “do it yourself” goes away quickly. Life is all about being with others. When you’re dying you understand that idea. People who unconditionally love you, make your life brighter. Plus, she said to me, “You never really die alone.”
3. Everything is beautiful and the little things mean the world.
4. Nothing makes you angry. Don’t waste your energy on a negative emotion.
5. From the day we’re born, we’re in the process of dying – so we’re all heading her direction. She told me that she wished (pre-diagnosis) she’d lived her life thinking about the idea each day. Before – she just assumed she’d get another day. Now, she doesn’t make that assumption.
She said so much more: How she planned a video to say good-bye at the funeral; How gentle the cold crisp air felt on her face; And, how unafraid she had become of death.
Before she left, she reminded me that we never know what’s in store for us.
This past weekend I lost it with one of my boys (topic for another post) and afterwards, I got in bed and prayed that I would be able to say I was sorry the next morning.
Life’s super short. Treat people as if it’s the last day you’ll see them. Enjoy the cool air on your face. Get your nails done! And, have an amazing day.