Years ago I was shown a picture taken of a friend, resting on the edge of Half Dome’s summit in Yosemite National Park. Images like that always brought fear to my heart.
Sitting at the precipice.
One step back? Life.
One slip forward? Death at the end of a five thousand foot fall.
Yet each year, thousands of people face these fears and dare to sit on clifftops, or parachute from a plane, or bungie jump a canyon, or point their skis straight down a mountain covered in fresh powder and experience life more fully than many of us may ever know. Even if death is a real possibility in each of these activities, some people face it, accept it, and then confidently look the other way and live for the adventure.
There are also many others who end up sitting on a different kind of precipice. It’s called terminal illness. They didn’t choose to be there. It just happened. They were brought there against their will. Each day after that diagnosis, if all goes well they live, and if anything goes wrong they die. It’s that simple. And for the vast majority of those who receive this dreadful news, all paths inevitably end the same. We’re told, “It’s just a matter of time… there is no cure. As long as the disease is controlled, there’s life. If it cannot be controlled, life will eventually come to an end.”
Once that reality of all this hits, a new journey begins. It’s a journey about how to live while time passes… live, not wait.
Working through this challenge myself, is the reason why I chose to include the topic in my blog. I don’t intend for it to be depressing or dark. It’s not meant to draw sympathy from anyone. Instead, the purpose of this series is to come alongside any others who are struggling with health, or like me, are mentally working through a diagnosis of terminal illness, and want a companion along the way.
I know some of you will think that by writing on this subject I’ve given up hope. Think of it instead, as a hiker who has looked at the possibility of death, but chose to look the other way, to sit on that precipice and enjoy the view rather than turn away worrying, “What if I slip…” or “What if the ground gives out under me…” Also, I’ve made it this far on my journey thanks in part to those who have come before me. They’ve written books on facing cancer, given inspiring talks while diagnosed with the same fate, or done research on sickness, fear and depression, and shared their discoveries so those of us who face life’s uncertainty day by day can find the tools to do so with courage, hope, and joy. The time has come for me to do the same. Share now, or forever be silent.
Having said all this, remember that we are all terminally ill. From Adam and Eve through to present time, every single person has eventually faced death and could not escape. In this, we are all the same. So if you’re reading and haven’t been diagnosed with a terminal illness, know that life will end one day anyhow. If there is anything in this series that can help you find more purpose for each day you do live, then we have accomplished a second goal. Comforting the terminal, AND inspiring those who are not yet there, so both can find full and meaningful lives.
I’ll be adding a number of posts under this subject soon. Looking forward to the journey!
– Sanford Kravette