Some of you likely read that title and decided “nah, not this one” and some of you jumped right in. I will warn you, this will not be a short blog because once again, I have a lot to say.
We’ve had a lot of death around us lately. Of course, we’ve had the hard conversations since this recurrence diagnosis, but right away we also had very public deaths and funerals of Aretha Franklin and John McCain. And today we went to the funeral of a dear friend’s mother-in-law. So, it’s been part of my world and my thoughts of late. And then this weekend, my family went with my mother to a little mountain vacation to celebrate her 86th birthday. I didn’t sleep well and didn’t feel so good, so as usual when that happens, I had a lot of “head time”, some of it in the darker “fear places”. But I walked away with a profound sense of peace because I just reached a level of awareness that hadn’t been there before for me. Before I share that with you, let me be clear. I am still hyper focused on the positive and seeing this recurrence as a mere bump in the road. But I believe this is an important next step for me in this experience and because of that, I wanted to share it with you.
I am not afraid to die. I don’t expect a lot of pain. And if I die from cancer, it’s not like it sneaks up on you. I believe I will have plenty of time to have a peaceful closure with my loved ones and to leave nothing unsaid or unforgiven. I am clear that whenever it happens, I want to have an unburdened transition. Honestly I strive to live that way anyway. I mean I could walk out of my house and get hit by a bus so I want my people to know I love them, and to let go of any resentment or conflict in my heart.
So no, I’m really not afraid to die. Then why all the fear and stress about this recurrence? I have some clarity on that now and thought it was worth sharing. I believe it comes down to two areas of focus – THIS is what keeps me awake at night.
Letting go of the things I won’t get to experience… growing old with my wife, watching our boys grow up and really take charge of their lives, having grandchildren, those trips we really want to take to Ireland and the Greek Islands and ALL those other places, really getting to retire and enjoy that phase of life without worrying about finances, those pieces I won’t sing, the music I won’t hear, those books I won’t read, the beaches I won’t see again, that next career turn I won’t make, the blog I didn’t get to write, the thoughts I didn’t get to share, the motivational speaker I never became… and on the lighter side, and this is particularly for those of you that know me well… the wine I won’t taste, the game I won’t get to win, the football team I won’t EVER see get to the top, the political debate I can’t have…
Knowing that “my people” will be ok… my family will have “enough” money (I’m the breadwinner), my wife can grieve and still live a beautiful and happy life AA (After Ann), my son and Dara’s son will both grieve and recover, my son will launch his adult life and continue to be the sweet, loving, compassionate man he is becoming, our kids will remember the things about me that helped to shape their lives… In some ways, it might seem pretty arrogant to think people can’t make it without you, and it’s not really that. It’s more of a sense of guilt about what you are leaving behind – the people who depend on you financially and emotionally, will they be ok?
This one is hard y’all, and it’s exactly what Dara and I have been working through over the last month or so in particular. I am blessed that she knows where I am and doesn’t hesitate to remind me that she’s got this. She will be okay. That’s so important. So, tell your people you love them and tell them you’ve got this.
Finding peace in those areas really is the key. I’m almost there. It’s a huge shift.
I’m not afraid to die. But I don’t like letting go of this picture in my head. And listen, that is EXACTLY what happens with cancer. We are letting go of expectations and the picture of what our lives were “supposed to be” or what we wanted them to be from the very moment we hear the words “You Have Cancer”. And we continue to do that with every change in our plan or the bumps in the road after that. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of what we thought it would be. Letting go of fear. And trusting that you are right where you’re supposed to be. Knowing that you loved well, you make a difference in people’s lives, you raised a child and helped raised another that will continue to make an impact in the world. So it’s not so much about what you didn’t get to do and all about what you did do. What am I doing with the life I have TODAY? How am I showing up in my family, my community and my world? THAT IS WHAT MATTERS. That’s the end game.
It’s not about what you didn’t do, it’s about what you did, how you loved, how you showed up every day. There’s an amazing amount of peace in that realization.