Monday, May 23, 2011

What a Stranger's Death Taught Me About LIfe

There is a common thought that young people believe they are invincible. They'll engage in ridiculous or seemingly dangerous activities, and society will shake its head, thinking, "some day they'll learn there are consequences to actions, and things will not always be this way."

This mindset, however, is not limited to the ideas and adventures of a young generation. Most of us believe in this sense of "invincibility" in our own lives, although we do not often recognize it. It does not necessarily apply to our beliefs about what will happen to our physical selves, or the consequences involved with dangerous stunts. No, often times our thoughts of invincibility are related to the invincibility of our lifestyles, or the current state of affairs of our lives.

I believe there are a number of "certainties" that we have all come to expect, or even rely upon, in our own lives. These things may be so much the norm that it's possible we don't even realize how important they are to us. Nothing in this world lasts forever, however much we may want it to. For how much longer will you be able to wake up in the morning and see your beautiful and loving spouse next to you? For how much longer will your child run to you from the other room, simply to give you a hug and a kiss because they miss you? For how much longer will your own father or mother be available for you to converse with, about both things meaningful and trivial? Each of these things will come to an end at some point, and it is heart wrenching to even imagine it ending. You wake up and see the empty space on the other side of the bed, realizing that your spouse will not be there when you wake up tomorrow either, or the next day, or the day after that. You hear children playing nearby, but you know that your own child won't be running back to you simply to say hello. Merely thinking of the end of such seemingly simple and common things can be difficult to handle. So, we don't think of them. We let ourselves fall into type of willful ignorance, "taking for granted" these simple pleasures of life. They become common place, everyday occurrences that at times may seem as normal as the sun rising every morning. These things become "invincible" in our lives, as we refuse to recognize that they will change.

Somewhere inside each of us lies the realization that the way things are now is not the way things will always be. "How frightening," we say to ourselves, "that everything is changing so fast." This sentiment is not always verbalized in this way, it can take many forms. "You're growing up too fast!" "I'm going to miss times like this," and phrases like these all carry with them the feelings of sadness and longing as we wish that time would slow down and these good times would continue forever. For a moment we recognize that the "invincible" things in our lives aren't as concrete as we once thought.

A high school friend of mine has a 5 year old nephew that suffers from cancer. The little boy's mother has been keeping a blog, giving updates about his condition and writing about the experiences they having in the trying time. Before this young guy was diagnosed with cancer his father passed away from a heart condition. This family's ordeal has touched me deeply. I don't consider myself a highly emotional person, but when I saw a photo of this little boy at a cemetery, head bald from chemo, placing flowers at his father's grave I couldn't keep myself from weeping.

On this boy's blog there are links to several others, each detailing the experiences of cancer-fighting children and their families. Last night I followed some of these links and landed on a blog kept by a 19 year old young man's father. This young man fought cancer when he was younger, and overcame it. A few months ago he received a call to serve as an LDS missionary, something he had dreamed of doing. Less than a week after receiving his call he was diagnosed with cancer again. In the last week and a half this young man passed away. As I read various posts on the blog I realized that tears were rolling down my cheeks. For almost an hour afterward all I could do was think of think of life, death, and the love of this young man's family, tears flowing all the while.

Last night's tears, as well as those that came while reading the little boy's blog, were not accompanied by sobs or feelings of grief. There were feelings of sadness and compassion for those who are suffering, but the tears were not in anguish. I have no way of knowing exactly what these families are feeling, but I have always had an understanding of emotions and thinking. There is a common theme in all of the blogs of this cancer community, a theme that I wish we could all grab hold of and implement in our own lives. That common thread that binds these families together is the immense amount of love they share. My tears came as I realized what love really means to these people, and how much I want it in my own life.

We have all heard the phrase, "Live in the moment." These families have come to realize how precious life really is, as the illnesses they deal with have opened their eyes to the reality that someone can be taken from you at any moment. They truly live in the moment, cherishing every second they are able to spend with the people they love. In this way they have come to live, what I call, a more mature and beautiful version of "live in the moment." These individuals and families "Love in the moment."

Every single one of us has people that we love and care about. How often do we tell them how much they mean to us? We can say to ourselves, "Oh, my spouse knows how much I love them!" Or maybe, "My parents know how much I appreciate all the support they've given me." We all want (and need, I believe) to feel loved and appreciated, but implied love, or merely knowing that we love someone and believing they know it does not satisfy. There is a stigma surrounding the idea of telling someone you love them. We're all afraid that we won't be taken seriously, or that it will turn out to be like a cheesy Hallmark movie. We can thank the Adversary, the Father of All Lies, for shaping a society in which love, a necessary and amazing part of life, is something that should be hidden and not expressed.

I hope we can all try to live like those who have come to realize that there is nothing "invincible" in our lives. People we love can be taken at any time, or even we can be taken from those who love us. We must not assume that others know our love and admiration for them. If you are unable to verbalize everything you would like to tell someone then write them a letter. The important thing is that you let them know! This is something that I feel very strongly about, and it's what made me come back to this blog.

"Live in them moment." The only way to truly do so is to "Love in the moment."