No, I don’t have cancer or some other fatal illness. The doctor has not given me any bad news. In fact, I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in over 20 years. I’ve dropped 65 pounds by eating less and moving more, quit drinking, and due to an earlier-than-planned semi-forced retirement I have found more time on my hands to work on my mental and spiritual health as well as my physical health. But I’m still dying, and I know it.
We all die. It’s just another part of life. Some do it well, and others go scratching and screaming. Most of us hardly give it a thought. Sure, it will happen someday. Not now. Not today, or this week. Probably not even this year. Heck, I have so many things I still have to do. My calendar is full – as if we really have any say in the matter. Each of us has a date that we will die etched in some Big Book up in heaven (God has every detail of our lives set according to His plan), or maybe we just croak because shit happens in this wonderful, chaotic, mysterious universe that we little carbon units inhabit for a brief moment as we hurtle through space and time. But we all die. Our “life” comes to an end – maybe after a long drawn out illness, in a tragic accident, an unexpected heart attack, or in our sleep at the end of a life well lived surrounded by those who love you – one can only hope.
It’s not the dying that bothers me, it’s the “knowing it” that challenges me. Since I don’t know what date got etched into that Big Book, and I don’t know how many of those loved ones will care enough to be standing around my bed as I slip away in my sleep shortly after blowing out the candles on my 100th birthday cake (yes, I’ve put in for that exit option), I need to make use of the time I have left. Better use of the time I have left. I need to keep my impending demise close to my calendar, because it is the scarcity of remaining days that gives value to each one I have left. At 66 years old most of my life is behind me, but with age comes a little wisdom – where the years and the miles intersect with experience to grant a clearer view than we had when our eyes were sharper but our knees were bloodied from our youthful stumbles and falls.
I have tried hard not to waste this time that has been made available and believe that this unplanned detour in my life has led, and will lead, to new opportunities – if I’m alert enough to be “present” when they appear. I have to pay attention. I have to make each day count.