If you have been reading my website for any length of time, you know that I often share about how precious life is. That we should live life to the fullest, enjoy every day, tell people that we love them, do not have unresolved issues, make time to do the things you want to do, don’t keep putting things off saying someday… Someday might not come. I wrote an article called Seriously, Really, You Would Rather Be An Ostrich about the importance of having your medical and legal documents prepared because we never know when they will be needed. Also, it’s important to discuss with everyone in your family or support group of friends, etc. what your wishes are if anything were to happen to you.
We never know when our time is up. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or if you are healthy or sick. At some point in time we will all die. It’s not usually when we think it will happen or how we think it will happen. I have known and heard of young children that have died suddenly either health or accident related. The same with teenagers, young adults, etc.
In September 2012, I felt a large tumor in my abdomen. I went to my doctor and she confirmed it. I wrote about this in other stories on my website so I won’t go into the details here. Due to my complicated medical condition and numerous previous operations, I am inoperable, or if they did operate my success rate is extremely low. I decided I do not want any treatment because I choose quality of life over trying things that might help but will make me very sick. In early 2013, as my tumor grew and my symptoms got worse, my doctor told me I most probably would not live to my birthday in September, and definitely not until the end of the year. She said most definitely I would not live two more years. Well, guess what… It’s been one and a half years and even though I am still having health issues, I am still alive.
In March 2013, I started on another cross country trip, it was my 3rd trip, I also went cross country in 2011 and 2012. I planned to be away until the end of the year. God had other plans and based on my health symptoms towards the middle of April, I had to go back home. You can read more in the stories in this link. In part, I wrote: When I was camped at this state park, after getting my campsite set up, I sat on a swing next to the lake. I was talking with God and asking God to help my mind be still, because I was on my way back to Florida, cutting my trip shorter than I wanted, and I was wondering what was going to happen, how much time I would have before my health gets much worse, where I was going to stay, how much more time would I have to live, etc. God took over the meditation and let me know that He/She has a plan for me and I don’t need to know what it is in advance. I received the message that it will unfold as it’s supposed to and all I have to do is stay in today, in the moment, and know that I am being provided for and taken care of. It was a cold, windy, and sunny day. God said my journey will be like this day, there will be some windy times, and there will be quiet times, warm times, etc. It’s part of my journey. I was also given the message that I am walking towards God and that God’s love is waiting for me, along with people that know and love me and will welcome me. I felt such peace come over me. I know in my heart that this is true.
As it has come up in discussion with various people over the past several months, I told them I wasn’t supposed to be alive now, or even at the end of last year. What I didn’t realize until this weekend, was that because of my health condition, I wasn’t supposed to be alive past December 2013, not 2014 as I thought. Big awakening for me. So far I have lived about 18 months longer than was expected. Most days that is such a gift. There are days when the pain is very intense, or when I can’t do the things I want to do that I would rather that I wasn’t alive, but those times pass and then as I live life I realize what I would have missed if I wasn’t here. I even went into Hospice for the first five months of 2014 and I checked myself out and said I need to go live life to the fullest until I can’t anymore.
Some days my best is sitting and reading, or driving shorter distances, or taking frequent naps, eating only small amounts of food. I know “it” meaning my tumors, health condition, etc. will win eventually, but I am not letting “it” win easily. I have to modify my activities but that’s okay. I still live a good life and better than so many who have worse health related issues than I have. I want to do it for those who didn’t get a chance to do these things. It’s about making memories, for us and those we leave behind.
After I wrote the Seriously, Really, You Would Rather Be An Ostrich story, a few of my friends who read my website let me know that they sat down with their family and discussed these important subjects such as what they want done if they become unconscious, or have serious health conditions, what they want for funeral arrangements, etc. The time to discuss these important topics is when things are okay, not in the midst of the event when immediate decisions may have to be made and there is not much time to think about it.
Last Wednesday afternoon, May 6th, I received an email from my good friend Pam who I have written about many times in my stories. We do many things together. In fact, she set this website up for me along with several websites for some of the volunteer fire departments I donated to. The email subject said: Sad News… I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that one of her dogs has cancer, but I didn’t think it was that serious.
As I read Pam’s email I went into a state of shock, thinking this can’t be real, but sadly it was.
I am so sorry to have to share some sad news, but Jeff suffered a sudden and severe asthma attack late Sunday night. He spent the past few days in ICU at Cleveland Clinic, where he received amazing care, but unfortunately he lost the battle a few hours ago.
We’ll be celebrating his life at a service on Friday at the Coral Springs Funeral Home.
Jeff thought the world of you, and although he probably never told you, please know he told me. Thank you for your love and friendship.
Jeff was Pam’s husband, they would have been together 30 years on July 19th. I know how much Jeff and Pam loved each other and how their eyes would brighten when they talked about one another or looked at each other. Pam told us that every day she would listen for the sound of the garage door opening which let her know that Jeff was home. Jeff had a great sense of humor and he loved to laugh, his family said especially at himself. Jeff’s heart was huge… he was so loved and he loved so many, especially Pam and their children, and also now the newest member of the family a grandson, who had a challenging start in life as a preemie and who is now doing well. All of us who know Pam, Jeff, and their family are sending our healing thoughts and prayers to them and their family and friends during this difficult time.
We were asked to wear jeans and sneakers to the memorial service because Jeff said if he couldn’t wear jeans and sneakers somewhere he didn’t want to go. Most of us did. At the memorial service, Pam introduced me to family members that I had not yet met, and also some of Jeff’s friends. It turns out that some of Jeff’s friends are volunteer firefighters. They had t-shirts made with Jeff’s name, name of his company, and 1958-2015, the 57 years of Jeff’s life. Even though we wish it were many more years, Jeff lived 57 years, and I have a strong feeling from what I know about him and his family that a majority of those years were filled with love, laughter, joy, shared sorrows, and a zest for life. No matter how long we live, when we die the tombstone, if there is one, says the year we were born, a dash, and the year we died. The dash is the same length no matter how long someone lived, or what they did with their life. I want to live life so fully that my dash is bursting at the seam. I believe that Jeff’s dash burst at the seam. He lived a full life, even though it was much, much, too short for those of us who knew and loved him.
Pam said that many blessings have come from Jeff’s passing. One of them is that several family members who weren’t speaking are now. How sad that often it’s tragedy that heals wounds or gets people together. I find the people who have the most difficult time with a person’s death is when there are unresolved issues. While someone is alive there is still a way to try to mend the relationship. Once someone is dead it’s not as easy, you can’t go to that person and forgive or apologize. You will have to find another way to resolve that issue so you can be at peace.
Jeff was healthy on Saturday and Sunday. Pam said they had a great time together on the weekend doing things together. I am so grateful they had that special time together. When they went to bed that night, they had no idea that Jeff would suffer a fatal asthma attack, that life would change forever for their family. One of the blessings in this sad experience is that Pam knew Jeff’s wishes. Shortly after I wrote my Seriously, Really story Pam and Jeff sat down and discussed their wishes should the unexpected happen and what they want done regarding health decisions and funeral arrangements. After the memorial service Pam said the talk that she and Jeff had made it easier for her during this sudden, tragic, difficult time. Also, to show how generous this family is and how much they care about others, Jeff’s organs were donated so that others lives can be saved and made better.
Pam told me that I outlived another person. I told her I would rather Jeff be alive than me. I know we can’t swap one life for another. I would have given mine several times for someone else over the years. Everyone has their purpose in life and is here for whatever time we are alive. There were so many things for Jeff yet to experience. A few years ago Jeff walked his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Early next year his son is going to be married and I know Jeff will be missed. I also know he will be at the wedding in spirit. I would bet he will be with them in spirit and thought always especially during the times he is most thought about like the wedding, birth of new grandchildren, and on so many other occasions and days. In the past few years I have had many friends pass away some unexpectedly from heart attacks, accidents, etc. and some from health related issues. It is not always easy to experience the loss. I think it’s easier when we have seen them suffer and now they are at peace. It’s the sudden, unexpected deaths that I feel are the hardest to have to live with. That’s why it’s important to always leave with kind words, loving words, resolved issues. We may never get another chance with that person, or even them with us if it’s our turn first.
The same day Jeff passed, a friend long time friend of mine in Texas did too… Dan lost his long time battle with cancer. Dan also had a great sense of humor and he lived life to the fullest every day. I can still hear Dan’s laugh and smiling eyes when I think about him. I saw Dan last year when I was in Texas. He was looking much better than when I saw him the year before when he was going through Chemo and radiation. A few months ago, or maybe it was the end of last year we thought Dan’s cancer was in remission. Dan lived to the age of 75, and still his life ended too soon, he will be missed by his wife Sue and many of us who were his friends.
As I was writing this post I received an email from someone at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, she wrote that one of the security guards at the Gondola Club died last week of a massive heart attack. He was only 29 years old, with a baby boy. Another unexpected sad loss… especially at 27 years of age. Many years ago my family and another family were extremely close. We went on vacations together and celebrated birthdays and holidays together. They had 3 children like our family did and we were all almost the same ages. In 1982, their son who was 24 and a few months different in age from my brother died unexpectedly of a heart attack and his wife was pregnant with their first child. Jeff was born in the same year as my brother, their birthdays were 17 days apart.
For some reason, God still wants me here. I guess there is more for me to accomplish, or share a message about, or be an inspiration to others. Maybe it’s telling everyone about the importance of appreciating life every day and living it to the fullest. To keep an attitude of gratitude no matter what. To not say some day I will… Do it now, while you can. Don’t keep putting things off. Especially important things like having your medical and legal documents prepared. I hope and pray that I am living the way God wants me to and that I am sharing whatever message and adventures that God wants for me. I try to listen to that inner voice and spirit in order to be aware of the path I am to follow for my journey through life.
Make special memories, Happy and pleasant ones, even funny ones. It’s important to those we leave behind to remember these special times. During the memorial service for Jeff, Pam showed photos of Jeff’s life. One of the photos was of Pam and Jeff when we went on the Goodyear Blimp together in June 2013. When I saw that picture it brought back all of the memories of that day. Then it reminded me of when Pam, Jeff, and I went on a helicopter ride in Palm Beach County and after the helicopter ride we went out for Mexican food and Jeff told us stories that had Pam and I laughing. Jeff didn’t like to fly, however, he went on both of those airborne rides with us and I know he was glad he did. One picture can bring back so many memories. If there are no pictures, even mentioning an event or memory brings back that experience.
Remember to live life to the fullest. Cherish every moment. Share the journey with others. Live for the now.
“Live each day as if it’s your last, one of these days you are going to be right.” “Is today the worst day of your life? Then quit looking like it is.” I read these two sentences about 28 years ago and they changed my life. They pop into my mind every now and then and it reminds me of what’s important and what I need to focus on.
I saw a billboard in Albuquerque in 2011 that said: “Dream as if you will live forever, Live as though you will die tomorrow.”
In the book Illusions by Richard Bach, he writes in part… “Here is a test to find out if your mission on Earth has been accomplished… if you are still alive it isn’t.”
This poem helped me when my dad died eight years ago. I hope it helps those of you reading it now.
My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hole
Words from the old Carole King song “Tapestry”
In fact our lives are “tapestries,” and the death of a loved one is a ripping, gaping, bleeding hole in the very midst of the tapestry of our life. How, then, is the tapestry rewoven? It does not, with the mere passage of time, magically pull itself back together. Rather, it is rewoven only with the initiative, energy, and strength of the survivor reaching in and grasping the torn ends of threads, painfully pulling back and tying them together. And it is rewoven only with those persons around the survivor cutting threads from their own tapestries and bringing them to the survivor, with love and support and caring and tears and strength, helping to further tie the threads and fill in that gaping hole.
So, eventually, the tapestry is rewoven. But that “glitch” is always there, the roughness of that reweaving is, and always will be, apparent. In fact it may be twenty years from now, as the survivor reviews the tapestry of his or her life, or is in a particular setting, or hears a song on the radio, or remembers a special day of the month, that the rewoven seam is seen and felt again, and the survivor remembers and cries, or feels sad, or is touched by the love and caring expressed by those whose threads are apparent there – and that is perfectly normal. We do not recover from a death, but, when we allow others to help, we can reweave our tapestry, which may include continuing to grieve from time to time in varying degrees of intensity for the rest of our lives.
Many people want to know how to identify “abnormal” grieving. Obviously bizarre behavior that is out of character for the survivor is relatively easy to recognize. But less blatantly, if it seems clear that the emotional intensity of the survivor is consistently getting in the way of regular patterns of functioning (shopping, eating, work, health), then additional support in the form of counseling or medication could well be in order.
In any case, understanding the framework of grieving is useful both to survivors and their support system. It is only as these two work together that resolution and healing may occur.
I received this poem from a friend a few years ago and I posted it in my Seriously, Really story and I think it would be a good fit here too.
“THE BACK NINE”
A well written piece that is true. It does “bug me” that some of the things that I did not get around to doing (that I wanted to do) – are just not going to get done.
You know, time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.
But, here it is – the ‘back nine’ of my life and it catches me by surprise. How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember vividly seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that ‘I was only on the first hole’ and the ‘back nine’ was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.
But, here it is . . . my friends are retired and getting grey. They move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me, but, I see the great change. Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant . . . but like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d become. Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore . . . it’s mandatory! Cause if I don’t on my own free will, I just fall asleep where I sit!
And so, now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did! But, at least I know, that though I’m on the ‘ back nine’, and I’m not sure how long it will last, this I know for sure, that when it’s over on this earth . . . it’s over. A new adventure will begin!
Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done . . . things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.
So, if you’re not on the ‘ back nine’ yet . . . let me remind you that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether you’re on the ‘ back nine’ or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life . . . so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember, and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!
“Life” is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one.
LIVE IT WELL! ENJOY TODAY! DO SOMETHING FUN! BE HAPPY! HAVE A GREAT DAY!
Remember, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.