We were all in the same support group at Gilda's Cub, a cancer support community. Our "Living with Cancer" group was a safe place to share our fears, our secret emotions, and anything we didn't feel safe talking about to "others: (ie. those who haven't had cancer). There was a bond between us all that consisted of no judgement, or "shoulds", just acceptance and love.
The days I spent with each were full of sadness but also with joy and laughter. Each one of these very special people taught me how to live by sharing their last living days with me. You find out what is important, and it's not money. Nobody at the end of life wishes they spent more time at the office.
- Live in the Present: Life is about living in the now, the present moment. I didn't know that my last conversation with each, would be my last one, yet we lived and talked as if it would be. There wasn't talk about the future when it was known that their future was limited by days. Only the present existed and that made each moment precious and alive. Live now, it's all we have.
- It really is about Love: Our conversations often centered around love--the love they felt for their partners, their children, even their pets. As each faced death, they were not afraid for themselves but for their loved ones being left behind. No one wanted their passing to cause heartache and grief. When someone passes, we lose one person, but the person dying, loses everyone and not everyone is important. While each had many friends, they only wanted to be with those they loved. Learn to love.
- Be Selfish: Each faced death in a different way but each in their own way. One had total acceptance, while another fought his cancer until his dying breath. One died at home with his partners arms around him, another in a hospice bed in the middle of the night during sleep, and another in the afternoon after saying goodbye to a close friend. In the last days, it was all about them and what they wanted, whether it was conversation, quiet times, or ice cream. Each limited who they wanted to see and speak to. Each concentrated on what was important to them, they chose what would bring them joy or peace instead of doing something out of obligation. We waste so much of our time on things and people who don't bring joy, peace or happiness into our lives, be selfish with your time and invest in what what does bring joy, peace and happiness to you.
- Death is not to be feared: Nobody gets out of life alive. This transition to another realm is something we all will face at some time. There is NO choice in this matter. It was not death they feared but the physically pain from cancer. Luckily each had understanding doctors who had their pain controlled most of the time. It may have been the medication but one spoke of a beautiful forest with others waiting for her. It's not uncommon for those facing death to have one foot in this world and one foot in the next and it's always something beautiful. Death is the greatest experience of all, that is why they save it for last.