At the Precipice

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

—-  Photo credits, Terrie DeBord.  This shot was taken of a good friend of mine (and best man at my wedding!), Bruce DeBord in 1979 at the top of Half Dome’s visor. Bruce, you’re an inspiration and always have been. 

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One Response to At the Precipice

  1. So when I moved the site, comments for this post vanished. They were so awesome though, I wanted to copy them over to here in the order they came in.


    From Joan: “God bless you Sandy. I don’t know what else to say right now. Your posts are so eloquent and serene they give me a lot to think about. You are an inspiration.”


    From Me: “Thanks Joan. I just write what I feel inside. So many have helped me get here. So now it’s more like a choice to be honest, or withdraw. Honest seems better. Right?”


    From Day: “Wow inspiring how can I send this to a friend of mine who’s mother is dying of cancer? I believe she would love this.”


    From Me: “Yes, please. That’s mostly why I’m writing about it. Much too terrifying a time to go it on your own. Finding people to share that journey with who you can relate to is so important. Hopefully it will help.”


    From Roy: “Thank you for your thoughts and inspiration. Pat and I always have you in our minds and prayers. We still feel that you will win this battle. No one who has no threat of death can possibly know what you are facing. Bringing the reality that all of us one day will realize that life comes to an end is something that only a great teacher like you can do. We go through life like a horse with blinders; only seeing what’s in front of us.

    At my age I know that it is only a matter of time when I will be called so I try to live, as you suggest, one day at a time and make it a day of making others happy. I have a dark history of hurting people (not intentionally) and much to make up before I go. I can only hope that the Lord is forgiving.

    God bless you and may the Lord be with you very step of the way!!

    Every day I spend 4 hours or more on the keyboard, and I can see and hear you beside me so I have disciplined myself to do exactly what you have taught me. I also feel that every day I feel improvement and playing is becoming more listening and feeling the music than mechanically hitting keys. I sure you understand this being the great teacher you are. For what is’s worth , you have made a childhood dream come true. This probably doesn’t mean much to you because you have taught so many great players, but I just thought you might like to know what an 83 yr. old man thinks.

    I hope you don’t mind that I am sending your letters to friends and family.

    You don’t have to respond to this e-mail — I just want you to know that everyone is thinking about you.

    Best Regards, Roy Moulton”


    From Me: “Wow. Roy, that is such a kind and meaningful note. Yes, it touched my heart. Yes, God forgives us all (I had my dark moments in life too). Yes, you are one of many students I’ve had, but honestly, every student is special to me and always has been. You are special to me. Meeting you and spending time together has been inspiring. I’m still hoping I make it to 83 like you, with so much clarity of thought, drive and compassion. Thanks for your inspiration!”

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