Don’t worry, ’bout a thing… ’cause everything little thing’s gonna be alright.
Ah Bob Marley, sing it man.
Some people despise their in-laws, I get along great with mine. My father in law… such a kind, giving, selfless man. He had recently been battling lymphoma, his sixth and last round of chemotherapy just finished. We were so happy, so excited, just anticipating his completion of suffering through months of fighting cancer. The oncologist was optimistic about his progression. Then, just before Valentine’s Day, he got sick.
It started with bilateral pneumonia. Whenever a person goes through chemotherapy, that person’s immune system is extremely compromised. Here’s the oversimplified version. Cancer cells divide rapidly, thus chemotherapy indiscriminately targets rapidly dividing cells. So cancer cells (hopefully) are attacked. Unfortunately, other rapidly dividing cells are targeted as well. This is why hair falls out, tastes change, and a myriad of other expected side effects accompany chemotherapy. Then, after three weeks, the patient takes another dose of chemotherapy, and another… and another.
This weakens the body, saps whatever reserves a person has, but hopefully kills the cancer cells that would otherwise kill a person.
Thus, when my father in law was admitted after six rounds of chemo, his body had no reserve, little immune system, and he was high risk.
Initially he got a bit better. But, with no reserve and post chemo, the odds were stacked against him.
Then he died.
My brother and sister were with him at the time when he died peacefully.
The rest of the family arrived very shortly thereafter.
He was 69, the same age as my mom when she died a few years ago (also from cancer (for the record their birthdays are 1 day apart)).
This is where I wanted to scream “this is bullshit!” Sorry, but if I’m really being honest with myself, this just seemed so utterly and completely unfair to me. Now, for those of you still disillusioned to believe life is fair, come work for a few weeks in the ER and that belief will be obliterated. We see selfish drunks doing everything (from a health standpoint) completely wrong and yet they live long lives. Other drunken idiots drive cars and get in terrible wrecks unscathed, while innocent bystanders are maimed. I’ve seen young, kind, happy, loving families torn apart by a chance occurrence or just plain unluckiness.
Life’s. Not. Fair.
I can see how depression, despair, anger, bitterness, cynicism, callousness, and apathy can seem like only way to get through life. I’ve seen people spout this mantra.
Then, when the smoke clears, I take a step back.
When in the thicket, while mourning, the haze is too thick.
Take a deep breath.
Think about someone you loved (or if somehow you are lucky enough never to have lost someone, someone you currently love deeply). That little fire in your chest. The little bubble, the smile on your face when you think about them. None of the negative emotions cause that feeling.
Why does it hurt when someone dies? It’s because the person and you created joy, happiness, love, and memories together. It’s the kindness that we remember. It’s the love that makes a person a friend.
This is why I have unrelenting optimism. Don’t get me wrong, I have my snarky days, but usually I go out of my way to bubble spastic positivity from every pore. It’s hard, especially in the ER. This is why I try to take chances and enjoy life to the fullest. This is why I try enjoy life now, because you never know when you won’t be able to.
My best friend works with the elderly. She states they usually recommend:
1. Spend more time with family.
2. Don’t put off everything you want to do until retirement, ’cause things change.
3. Don’t get old.
Wisdom. Though I’m not sure I like #3, since the alternative is pretty grim.
This advice reminds me of a poem by Shel Silverstein:
Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.
We can wallow in our sadness. We can spend our time looking back, being angry, being frustrated that what happened was not fair.
Or, we can choose joy.
We can choose to be kind.
We can make someone else’s day a little brighter.
Choose to be the ray of sunshine.
And, when we do look back, we can do so with a smile on our face, because that is what the person we loved would want us to do anyways.