I have learned that, to a surprising degree, I have a choice about which side to focus on.
Choosing a state of gratitude has allowed me to remain happy and even joyous in this time. Yes, there is still grief, but the tears are fleeting, and lately rare.
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Talking and writing openly about it has enabled my loved ones and I to feel okay. It is my hope that our writing will help others face death with less fear and anguish. Humor has also been a huge help.
Allowing ourselves to embrace and even delight in the absurdities of life that can bring anything at any moment has lightened our sadness. Being so open about my terminal diagnosis was easy for me partly because I was able to accept it immediately. And acceptance was possible because all my life I have been thinking about death and making peace with it instead of fearing it. Having to die when I am still full of vitality has never felt unfair to me.
Nor is it a surprise. Death was always part of the deal. And I wanted to be ready whenever it came. The essayist Michel de Montaigne tells of the skeleton guest at celebrations in ancient Egypt , reminding revelers that there is never a time when death cannot visit, invited or not.
And I have heard of another people who keep their own caskets by the front door as a reminder of their own mortality. I can see now how coming to terms with mortality has been worthwhile not just for the chance moment of a dreaded diagnosis: Death has shown me that when I am living the life I am meant to live, I am giving. On a practical level, this meant getting my affairs in order: Amid that long and tedious process, I wondered how people managed to die suddenly.
There was so much to do! But giving is much more than a list of bequests. I have also given to society through my teaching job, volunteer work and charity.
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But most importantly, I continue to give of myself. In my personal relationships, this means my affection, my compassion, my friendship and my love. Since he is jealous of our cat, I try to favor him with the head rubs. I love to give a smile to strangers, knowing many will pass it on. I try not to give unwanted advice to my sons, but I keep failing. There are so many ways to give: I want to give as much as possible, and not just to my dear ones but to everyone, to the whole dear world that I have loved so much. But giving sometimes triggers grief when I know these opportunities are coming to an end.
Living and Dying with Cancer by Angela Armstrong-Coster
I ended up pounding on his door until I finally managed to rouse a roommate who let me in to find him still soundly sleeping. We both knew it was the last time I would be able to rescue him. There will be bodily fluids and other disgusting stuff. If any of this bothers you, then fuck off and look at pictures of food on Instagram. If not, then please come with me, stay with me. Share your stories in the comments.
Living while Dying