"Live Like You Were Dying"

Terry Fox, Thunder Bay, Canada
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Can you "live like you were dying," meaning having fun or doing "things" you wouldn't have done, yet you do them because you have a terminal illness? Some people say it depends on the situation. Some dying people become kinder and more loving. Some, like Terry Fox, do great things. 
I ask, do we truly know how they feel?  Do they honestly tell us what they think?

In the true sense of the phrase, I declare that many dying people do not try to live as though they are dying. They just live. The man who's given two weeks after a medical diagnosis cannot truly live as if he's dying.  Thoughts of death make him a living dead even as he laughs. He has no control over his fate.

Dunn's River, St Ann, Jamaica
I'm not saying that some dying people do not enjoy their final days. And maybe I'm even presumptuous to attempt writing about this topic. But I've seen much and I've heard many stories.
Washington, District of Columbia
When my mother first realized her thyroid cancer had become a roaming parasite in her body, I bought the "Live like you were dying idea." I told her to buy clothes, travel (go to places she did not know), enjoy life, and cherish the last moments. Being with her and doing all of those things felt weird because I knew and she knew, and I had never forgotten why we were doing certain things. Death conquered our minds.
CN Tower, Toronto, Canada
Disney World, Florida, USA
I now see some of those things she did as masquerades over feelings. Masks. The masking of blank stares and sadness her slow death did not reveal until the the cancer, in its final stage, hovered like a hawk over carcass. Under my mother's masks were fears and tears and pain and sadness, feelings too glum to express.
When my radio coach discovered a lung transplant was not possible to replace his cancer-infested lungs, he surrendered to death. His soul died. I observed him. Happiness walked out his door. He lived moment by moment. 
Oxygen Tank
When my 37-year-old sister's cancer pounced like a tsunami, raging from chest to head, unspeakable sorrow flowed from her eyes as she waited to die. When the doctor gave my mother three months, life ran away. Her spirit died before her physical death.
Pain Pump

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm foolish, maybe I'm confused, maybe I'm grieving, maybe I'm just grappling with my own mortality. Still or for now, I don't think dying people live as though they are dying--in the true sense of the phrase. Dying people live thinking they are already dead. You see, all eyes are on them. Everyone waits to witness the last minute, the last second, the last breath, the goodbye ritual. Dying people know we wait to dispose their bodies.
Please tell me I'm wrong. Tell me I'm taking a simple approach regarding a complicated matter. Tell me what I'm saying does not make sense. Enlighten me. Please. (Previously posted here: Conceive Writing

Here's an article about dying: The Waiting 

1 comment:

  1. Death is a part of life....and we are all going to die some day. Even people who are very ill make a comeback; we just never know. I always try to live each day like it were my last...because it might very well be! We cannot do anything about the past, we are not guaranteed tomorrow, so living each day, and enjoying and treasuring the moments we have is a good thing. One could walk across the street and get struck by a car or other vehicle and die instantly. We just don't know! In my view, life is too short to hold a grudge, to be hateful... Children and animals are great teachers as far as living in the moment. Wonderful, thought provoking post. Thank you so much for sharing.


These are our stories. Thank you for your kind comment and laugh as often as you can. Peaches D. Ledwidge, author of Day Laughs Night Cries: Fifteen