We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will. — Chuck Palahniuk
The other day I was speaking to my friend Rose who lost a kidney recently. She is fine now, but the experience did change her. Not surprisingly, Rose told me that the tumor that resulted in the removal of her kidney reminded her mightily of her mortality. She had not expected the findings of a diligent doctor nor considered actually that she would be faced with such a life threatening situation. The experience gave her pause in a profound way.
It is interesting to hear Rose speak of her encounter with her mortality. She struck me as one of those aware mortals who knew very well of her finite time on earth. But even the most aware get caught off guard. As Rose watched me on the internet researching a condition for which I will soon have surgery to correct, she asked me directly: Why do you keep bothering? It will only stress you more. I thought on what she said for a moment and then responded: I guess to better understand. On which Rose smiled and said: We are all going to die of something. It was said in one of those matter of fact ways that stopped you in your tracks. My condition isn’t life threatening and I wasn’t really thinking of death, but the straight way in which Rose spoke made me realize underneath it all that IT – death, that is – is exactly what I am thinking of.
Rose was right to ask me why I kept up my obsession with researching my condition. It is probably the umpteenth time I have gone on my quest to understand the nuances of my physical malady. I am not sure what else I can find in my research, but I can’t seem to help myself. I have pretty much gone through life relying on nothing stronger than the occasional small dosage of aspirin to strike a blow to an equally small ache and pain. I’ve never broken a leg, never had surgery, never faced the prognosis of cancer. I’ve been fortunate.
But I feel vulnerable. I guess in my internet hunt I am looking for certain information but medicine has too many shades of gray to be certain. Do this, says one source. Do that, says another. So many voices, so many opinions, it becomes hard to hear your own voice in the squabble. But if I want my marching orders that is exactly what I need to hear.
Unlike me, Rose had no choice in her situation. It was remove the kidney or die. Faced with some options and no death edict, I have had to weigh what I felt was right for me. One option created greater uncertainty than the other although it was less intrusive. The other took a more decisive blow, providing a safe guard that at least this particular issue would not evolve into something devastating. I opted for the latter.
In the garden, we sometimes do just that. We may tend to something gently while at other times we take a decisive whack. Naturally, there are no guarantees. Our efforts don’t always result in the outcome we want. We can eliminate one possible problem only to be faced with a thousand more. Just as true, we can fight the inevitability of our death, whether it is tomorrow or thirty years from now, but as Rose would say, what’s the point? Our actions do not hand us immortality but provide us opportunities to live more deeply. Nothing can be taken for granted.