To Know or Not to Know – Which Would You Choose?
We all know that nobody lives forever, and we all know that we have an expiration date. No Mas Viva! Expirado! Tho acknowledging that this fate is inevitable and totally inescapable, it is not very worrisome for most people as it seems so abstract, so distant, so far in the future and at such an unknown time. We don’t know when; we don’t know how, so we sing, “Que sera, sera” – whatever will be, will be” – we will deal with it later.
While most of us don’t dwell on our passing, we will from time to time contemplate on how we will go out. We hope that our ending might be comfortable, quick, easy, painless, not messy, and that we will die with dignity and grace and that we will not exit life’s stage like a pathetic, whimpering coward like Jimmy Cagney in Angels With Dirty Faces, crying, “I don’t want to die! Don’t let me burn! Let go of me!” as he is marched to the electric chair. We want to go peacefully in the night, causing no unnecessary fuss. We want to go out like a champion, brave and fearless to the very end. We want to be surrounded by our dear ones – family and friends, blessing them as we take our last breath. We like to see ourselves going out like the beloved Mr. Chips in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips!”or thoughtful like Johnny Eager whose last words were, “Say, call Mae and tell her I’ll be late for dinner.”
Fast forward to a new reality: death is no longer an abstract subject, for you now know the how and the when as it sits on your doorstep. You have received the news that the cancer in your abdomen is inoperable and that you have about six months to live. No chemo, no surgery, no radiation, no magic bullet can undo the invasion of the lethal cancer cells.. This is the hand you were dealt so why waste any time thinking about “why me?” or “I could’ve, I should’ve, and I would’ve.”
Perhaps this news is not something to dread, however, but an opportunity to leave this earth with class. Maybe you can make some lemonade out of this lemon: you can make plans and do some things that need doing now especially since you know what your schedule is. You can take inventory, listing all the important things you hopefully still have. Do you have a caring spouse, children that love you, many dear friends near and far? Do you have a faith that has given you strength and peace in the past and will now carry you forth over the final hurdle? Do you have gratitude and thanksgiving for all the blessings you have received over your lifetime? Do you have on your list a pile up kindnesses, generosity, forgiveness, faithfulness, good works, friendliness, and love?
When you review this list, you soon realize that every thing else is wood, hay, and stubble with no eternal or memorable value. Made a lot of money? So what. Won a golf championship? Who cares. Nice cars, homes, vacations? Gone and meaningless.
But now in your final months you have a great opportunity knowing the reality of your demise. You have the privilege of knowing when and how you will leave this life giving you time to bid farewell with style, class, and meaning. You have time to thank all the people that have been a blessing to you in your life, and to apologize to the those you have offended, disappointed, and failed. You now get to tell your dear ones how much you have loved them and that you wish you only had been more there for them than you were.
You get to tell the preacher what you want the people to hear. You get to select your favorite hymns and singers. You get to choose how you want to enter eternity – urn or coffin. Best of all, you plan for a fabulous farewell celebration: flowers, music, tables of food and desserts! You can even leave a recording of your last words and tell everyone that you look forward to seeing them some day but not too soon.
But don’t put any of this off as the six months could turn out to be six weeks. Sometimes the doctors get it wrong.