Scripture has long waxed poetic about man’s short time on earth. I've mentioned this before, but since age 9, I’ve had to deal with serious health issues that have demonstrated to me just how fragile and short our existence can be. Between ages 9 and 16 I had multiple surgeries for some odd muscular disease. During those years, going to Children’s hospital in Los Angeles, I got to know other children, much sicker than I was. Surprisingly, they seemed to deal with it much better than I’ve subsequently seen adults deal with it. One particularly happy boy was in the hospital permanently. I remember when I was 16 going in for a checkup. It was memorable for me because I had just become a licensed driver and it was my first trip to the hospital by myself. I went up to the ward and asked to see the boy. The nurse bowed her head and started crying. He had died. This boy, who was on a specially designed gurney with large, wheelchair-like front wheels so he could be mobile (he had to be flat on his belly), had appointed himself a one-man greeting committee. He would wheel into other children’s rooms who were frightened and apprehensive and he would cheer them up. Now he was gone. I also started crying. But more than that, in a private prayer to God, I told him that if I lived just one day longer than that boy, I’d have nothing to complain about.
Since then (around 5 decades), I’ve lost close friends who died in their late 30s and early 40s. The latter, I had known since my late 20s when he was a teen. They both died with dignity, always unselfishly thinking of others and not focusing on themselves. In a conversation with my oncologist yesterday, I related the above experiences and told him that I am nothing but grateful to Jehovah that I’ve lived more than 6 decades. I’m actually blown away that I’ve lived this long. I told him I do not fear death because I understand what scripture says about it – that in God’s eyes, we are merely “sleeping” in death and to him it is no more effort than to call out to us to wake up (in the resurrection). The imagery I see here is a loving father walking into the bedroom of his dear child and gently rousing him. (Yes, yes, I'm well aware of the commanding voice scriptures speak of.)
It has been around a year since I’ve posted anything about my health. I felt an update would be good. Based on the continuing issues with leukemia, bladder cancer and bone marrow failure, the oncologist felt we are looking about another 12 months before things start going drastically south. My latest bout with pneumonia this past week (which seemed to come out of nowhere) is just one more indication my immune system is being challenged to keep this boat afloat. He wanted me to reiterate my wishes now that we are getting closer. I confirmed that I’d rather have some semblance of a useful life than to be repeatedly assaulted with intrusive treatments that knock me off my feet for weeks at a time. (And mind you, “some semblance of a useful life” is far from what is normal. It seems every day I wake up and have to accept a new, lesser form of normal.) I declined any further surgeries or chemo treatments. He agreed that at this point, attempting to treat the situations would be harder on my body than just letting things take their course. I told him that in my mind, there is a difference between preserving life and extending death. He asked, “Besides what you don’t want, is there anything you do want?” I asked only that I be made as comfortable as possible. He suggested hospice. I told him that it really is way too soon to make that decision.