Day 29: I used to fear death.
I normally don’t blog on the weekend, but I didn’t post anything on Friday, so let this be my redemption.
A few nights ago, my friend read aloud a story that I’ve read before – a story from a book that is one of my all-time favorites. The story is about a man who lives an incredible life – one filled with wild adventure and great discipline, which leads to unexpectedly huge successes. He lives well and loves his family and friends in a way that penetrates deep. He loves in a way that changes people.
In his later years, but seemingly not quite late enough, he finds out he has stage four cancer, which has spread to other parts of his body. Life makes a drastic shift as once-major priorities are no longer significant and hours become so precious.
Knowing his time here is coming to a close, he begins to write, to share what he is thinking, feeling, learning. He talks about the pain and the sadness of leaving his family behind when he passes, but more than anything, he talks about joy and gratitude. He writes of the awareness he feels because of his proximity to death. There is no room to pretend he’s in control. He’s in the hands of his Creator and he knows it. He can’t escape knowing it because there is nowhere to run. All of his distractions, all of his illusions have been stripped away and his eyes are opened wide. He is aware.
His circumstance was not easy, but inside of it was a joy so full and an intimate reliance on the One who was giving him breath – the Creator of stars and mountains and lips that smile. Inside of the pain, was a treasure so rare and so beautiful that most can’t even understand it.
This story has sat heavy with me for the past three days. I can relate to this man. I’ve never had cancer but I’ve thought a lot about death. I used to fear death, consumed with the notion that the disease plaguing my body would eventually kill me. That hopelessness no longer exists and I am thankfully able to see things differently. I believe that today is the beginning of forever. God has the power to heal my body if he choses to and could surely do so at anytime. But if not, I sit in this chair, knowing that greater things lie ahead. In this circumstance, inside of my limitations, an awareness permeates – an engrained understanding that this very breath is a gift that I’m not guaranteed to have tomorrow.
That awareness lives inside of vulnerable conversations and faith-filled steps into the unknown. It produces unashamed courage and an unwavering pull to love really full and deep.
As I sat in bed and listened to this story of this man, I heard the words, “You are living a gift.”
What a gift it is to walk through the pain and know the preciousness of life. What a gift it is to hold this rare treasure of awareness and still be living, breathing full days.
Oh, I am thankful. God is so good.