Reminders of time gone by

I could have died. It doesn’t get more real, more in your face than that.

I don’t think about that very much. What would be the point? Lately, though, I seem to have constant reminders pointing me toward some unfinished business that I never even knew existed. It seems that when one is trying ones best to live, one must also give death its due.

I believe it is the Buddhists that believe that the best way to appreciate life is to meditate on your death. I have, quite uncharacteristically, not researched or looked into what that means or entails. It’s not that I’m not interested, I would be, could be, under different circumstances. It’s just too soon, too fresh … I could have died.

For you newbies, I am referring to my adventure with breast cancer, and more specifically, a bout I had with the common cold during chemotherapy. It frightened me, terrified me really, but I suspect that’s the beauty of it. Something so simple, so ordinary, can take our breath away, literally and figuratively, while our attention is focused elsewhere on seemingly more menacing matters. Frightening really, yet elegant all the same.

Lately the news seems rife with people succumbing to cancer. I’ve passed the phase where only breast cancer deaths catch my eye, now all cancer deaths chip away at my resolve, my fantasy that there is solid ground, no matter how distant, on the other side of this mire I have waded into. Right now, I detest the unknown, which is ludicrous in itself because all of life is an unknown. There is virtually no assurance of any continuance of existence, which brings me full circle to my point. I could have died.

Its silly really, since there are probably dozens of ‘could have died’ moments that have peppered my life without a second thought. I have a drivers license, so I’m sure there are some moments lurking there. I rode horses as a teenager and probably entrusted myself to a horse or two (or three) that wasn’t as stable or kind as he or she could have been, yet I’m still here. Swims in the ocean (shark!), plane, train and automobile trips, pre-dawn walks along sidewalk-less roads, life in general. There are dozens of airborne and self-inflicted illnesses that can befall a person, robbing you of tomorrow without a second thought, yet I ponder only the one.

In reality, I was far from death. Imagination amok, I was more frightened of the prospect of inching toward death than actually dying. I see death as somewhat of a one-way process, a road which embarked on does not often offer exits or a retracing of steps. At least that’s how I see it. Is it better to rail against the process, or march with dignity, head held high, and embrace the journey as the once-in-a-lifetime experience it is? I suppose that depends on the point on your lifeline that you happen to be jumping off at. Personally, I think I would prefer to fall right off the end of my palm, but that’s me.

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