La La How The Life Goes On

Life Goes On

Posted on: May 16, 2010

This weekend has been going swimmingly. Unlike last weekend when I spent another night in the hospital as a result of some late night atrial fibrillation. Luckily it was apparently a result of my previous myocarditis from the pneumococcal sepsis last month. So, a little drama but no big deal, thank god.

At one point on the Saturday I was sent for a chest x-ray, where I languished for 40 minutes waiting for someone to wheel me back to my floor. I was royally irritated because I knew the Dada and girls would be there waiting for me. When I finally arrived back I had to navigate through a crowd of very active people and devices in and outside the room next to me. I thought, “Oh wow, drama in there” but then immediately switched my focus to my family waiting for me in my room, wondering when I’d actually be discharged, and pretty much getting back to me me me.

Later in the day as I was walking out to meet my family upon my discharge, I got in the elevator with a guy my age who had walked out of that next-door room. We nodded hello and he blurted, “My father died today.” I said I was so sorry to hear that, and truth be told, I was. It hadn’t occurred to me for one second while I was being all pissy about my wait at radiology and being all me-me-me when I returned that a person was at that moment dying in the room next to me.

It gave me pause, because while we may not always assume that our death will be notable, it never crosses our minds that someone might at the hour of our passing be just steps away and unaware of the magnitude of what is happening.

As you can probably imagine, I’ve had the dubious opportunity to ponder my mortality more times than I care to count. It’s led me to a place that is rather difficult to express to anyone who hasn’t had to do similar unpleasant mental housework. The difficulty does not lie in the fact that it makes me uncomfortable, but in that it makes other people uncomfortable. I think they feel like they have to talk me out of my worldview in order to be a good friend, or perhaps it does seem so relentlessly depressing to someone who hasn’t prepared to meet his or her maker that they can’t see that realism–not depression–is the operating factor involved. I’m not sure. But here’s my worldview:

All of you parents who picture your child’s bar mitzvah, high school graduation, college visits, weddings? You imagine what sweet Freddie will look like in a cummerbund? Can picture little Amy in her middle school soccer uniform? Imagine what your grandkids will look like at your Thanksgiving table? I don’t. I used to, but now I don’t. I’ve learned that life (or perhaps more accurately, MY life) is too fragile for such musings. I’ve learned that every bit of energy and time I’m putting into noodlings on wedding fashions circa 2032 is being stolen from my life today. To put it bluntly, I mostly hope to live in some degree of good health at least until my kids are out of high school. Whether that happens, as we’ve all witnessed, remains to be seen.

I recognize that my worldview sounds like Perky Blogger Deathwatch 2010 to everyone but my compatriots at Dana Farber, but hear me out: I once had this totally hot male nurse, Andrew, at NIH. He was funny, gorgeous and–it turns out–exceedingly smart. He told me back in 2002 when first rumblings of a transplant were being heard (do it while you’re under 35 and otherwise healthy, ie, the exact opposite of how it actually went down!), “Esther, do not get a transplant unless you are at death’s door. Believe me, you will get a transplant and then you will spend the rest of your life managing the effects of that transplant. Be sure the tradeoff is worth it.”

Well, Andrew, you win the grand prize for prescience because that is precisely what is unfolding as we speak. And that is why I think the way I do. Sure, part of me imagined that I’d get a transplant and life would go back to normal–or become some fabulous, Hollywood new normal–and I’d get to leave all this health crap behind. But the realistic part of me always heard Andrew’s voice (and pictured Andrew’s doe eyes and hot lips…err…what? Never mind!) warning me about the lifelong transplant connection, discussing GVHD, and I somehow figured it would bite me in the ass sooner or later. Which it did. And damn if the fucker ain’t still biting. Which is why I consider my worldview to be precisely the opposite of depressing, even though I know it’s hard to hear anything but despair in “I hope I don’t die before my kids are 17.” Because I don’t imagine future halcyon days when my kids are 10. I don’t picture all the great things we’re going to do in three years when the girls are older. I don’t spend a single minute pondering how awesome it will be to see Bambina open her art studio with performances by The Rolling Stones and the sole surviving members of The Traveling Wilburys (although that’s pretty well thought-out for someone who hasn’t given it a second, no?). Why? Because I choose to spend my thoughts and time and energy on things in the here and now, on things that matter to my kids today, on activities and experiences that will make them who they will become whether I get to see who they will become or not. Or, put another way, I don’t procrastinate on our happiness; I don’t fool myself into thinking that there is some future date out there when things will be perfect. I just live every day, grateful to be here, however ludicrous I may look and however dramatic my life may seem. I try to feel the joy even when my house is a sty, my kids have dirty faces, and perhaps a certain Mama has yet to shower at 2pm, not because I think, “Oh damn, I might die tomorrow, boo hoo” but because I know that the only guarantee I (and really all of us) have is this minute right here, the one we’re living right now.

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2 Responses to "Life Goes On"

Funny, while I see your worldview, I have almost the exact opposite of it. I spend my days, as I have for nearly two years now, not really living, but marking time. Awaiting the day when my spouse of 20 plus years will ask if we can try to create a new normal in our marriage. I play with my child, love her and cuddle her and watch her grow and develop into a wonderful young lady, all the while praying and both of us can someday be reunited with the family we once knew.

Love this post! Live in the now. You are right on, sistah!

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