Friday, October 17, 2014

I'm Dying . . .

I'm not sure there is any news that could possibly be more sobering.

I had my routine check up with my regular primary physician last week. I also had an appointment with my ophthalmologist. It's an every other year ritual with my eye guy.

It was during these examinations that I discovered that I had a chronic, terminal condition. My primary doctor had my latest lab reports when she came in to the examining room. She had a big smile on her face as she handed me my copy of my lab report and said, how do you feel? I replied that I felt fine. Then she told me that everything was just about perfect and these lab tests indicated the best numbers that I had had since beginning to come to her at least 8 years ago.

My eye examination was scheduled for about an hour after I finished with my primary doctor. My eyes were checked for everything they could be checked for. I knew I had cataracts growing and fully expected the doctor to recommend I have the surgery to have them removed. But, that's not what he said. Instead he said my eyes are healthy. He went on to say that I didn't need new glasses and that my eyes had actually improved a little bit. The cataracts are there and apparent, however, they are not creating a problem and in his opinion, since I'm having no problems functioning normally with the cataracts, if they ain't broke, don't fix them.

Add these reports to being told this past spring that I'm cured of prostate cancer after 11 years and will never have to worry about that rearing its ugly head in my life again.

I'm Dying!

So, with all this good news from the three doctors, how can I be dying from a chronic, terminal condition? I've actually had this condition since birth. There is a name for the condition. It's called


That's right! My condition is actually life, the very life the doctors just told me how good I was doing with. And, of course, by this definition, you have the same chronic, terminal condition.

There is no question that I felt elated and pleased with my doctors' reports. But, a few questions flashed through my mind as I was receiving these reports about how my body was handling "life." One of the questions was about how long my body was going to holdup in this condition? Another question was, although I'm healthy and active, how soon could this reverse and I die?

I don't dwell on these kinds of thoughts, though I have met some people who do. But, I guess when one reaches a certain point in the journey of life you occasionally wonder if the end of the road is around the next bend. I'm sure you've thought about it at some point, too, and if you haven't, you will one day.

Live Until I Die

So, I know that I've been in the process of dying since I was born. There is no cure for it. There may be a few ways to prolong it by artificial means, but staying live by artificial assisted means doesn't mean that I'll enjoy a quality of life worth the extra time it may afford me.

So, my personal solution is to, first, accept the fact that I'm dying, it's inevitable, but I don't know exactly when or how this event will occur. Second, since I can't stop the event from happening, I've resigned myself to the eventuality of it and will do my utmost to live my life free, happy and fulfilling until I die.

Do I fear the event? No, I can't say I do. Do I focus my attention on this event? Absolutely not! There is no reasonable logic to focus on death when I have so much life still in my body to live, love, laugh, learn, enjoy and continue to do all the things I can that appear on my "Life List." A "Bucket List" is for those who are negative thinkers. A Life List is all the things I get to do because I'm alive. A Bucket List is all the things I want to try and do before I die. The difference is subtle, yet significant.

Charlie's Grace And Elegance

My, now deceased, friend, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones taught me a lot about living and dying. He told me during one our many very personal discussions, prior to his impending death from advanced stage prostate cancer, that he didn't fear death. Charlie was a devout, born again, Christian. What he then said to me was very profound. He said, and I paraphrase, life is a gift and it's temporary. Dying is part of living. Everyone is going to experience dying at some point in time. He went on to say that he was only going to die one time and he wanted to learn, first hand, everything he could about the process of dying and he wanted to enjoy this final experience of life.

Perhaps others have had similar feelings, but no one had ever verbalized it to me before like he did. He was true to his thoughts and feelings. The last time I spent time with Charlie was about a month before he died. He was just a shadow of the once 250 plus pound, 6'4" man who loved giving bear hugs (of the man hug variety) to every guy friend he knew and met. He could pick me up off my feet.

But, now he was withering away. He slept about 20 to 22 hours a day. Yet, he maintained his positive attitude. He affirmed our friendship and his affection for me as a friend. He told me that he felt his dying was a positive experience. We said goodbye and Charlie died just short of his 81st birthday. The next time I was in Charlie's presence was with his spirit at his memorial service where hundreds of people came from all over the U.S. and, I believe, some of his international friends were there, too. Charlie Jones lived until he died and he set an example.

So, I'm dying. My body, despite all the good reports from my doctors, is showing the signs of the aging process. I don't know if I will have three more days, a year, ten years or possibly 20, 25 or even 30 years left taking me to the century mark. All I know is that my focus is on living every day until that final day arrives living as freely, joyfully, happily, gratefully and productively (by my own determination) as I can.

I will hope to leave this life with as much grace and elegance as my friend, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, so I may set a similar example for others following me, both in how to live fully until they die and how to die with grace and elegance. Tomorrow morning, I'll awake again, looking at the view of the San Antonio, Texas landscape and the Tower of the Americas from my hotel window and relish every moment of the experience.