My cousin came just moments away from dying last week. She has R.A. which requires her to take regular shots of a medicine that lowers her immune system. Her choice is to risk infection or spend the rest of her life in crippling pain.

So her body had no defense when she contracted strep throat. It quickly lead to pneumonia. Within hours her lungs filled. Her husband got her to the hospital where she required 16 bottles of oxygen just to gasp in air. It was clearly time for her to go. He called all their children in to say goodbye. But somehow, through her strength, her faith, and the amazing efforts of the hospital doctors and nurses, she recovered.

Just a few days later she was released and went home.

She lives in a different state, a long ways from me. I first heard about her plight via a Facebook post then got more details when her husband called. I don’t get to see her much but she is very dear to me. I’m so glad I didn’t lose her.

Another person I know only through his television and radio shows passed away during the same time. Alan Colmes died at only 66 years of age, one year older than me. His politics were vastly different from mine but I enjoyed listening to him. You might remember him as the other half of the Hannity & Colmes show on Fox. He was a pleasant, knowledgeable, and happy man. Of course I didn’t know him personally but his death did affect me.

So all this has gotten me to thinking about this life I have and the inevitable passing we all face. I have so many things I still need to do: books to write, a wife to care for, children and grandchildren to love… so many things. But all that could be taken away. It doesn’t matter whether we have a disease like leukemia or we are perfectly healthy. We are here for such a short time.

It’s an odd thing death. Everything that you are just stops. I don’t know about the other side, or even if there is another side. All I know is what I’ve seen. When my folks passed they went from a moment of being there and then the next they were gone. A working brain, a living soul, and then nothing. They are only memories now. Even much of their possessions have been given away or sold.

It doesn’t seem fair does it? Yet, that’s what it is. I guess I can use the knowledge of my own demise as a motivation to be a better man and a good memory for my family and friends. In the end all you have is the summation of your life. When it’s all averaged out, I hope my life will reflect more of the good I’ve done than the wrongs I’ve committed.

My Mom and Dad

I visited my parent’s grave this weekend. I hadn’t been there since we buried them six years ago. It’s so odd. The people who raised me, who were the center of my life – just gone.

This whole mortality thing is weird. I mean, how can a person be alive one moment and gone the next? Why do even the healthy grow old and fade away? What’s the point?

I guess the point is, what matters is, that we make a difference while we’re here; leave a legacy for others to remember and to be blessed by. I don’t know if there is anything for us after we die but perhaps that is enough. Even if there is nothing more, our life, our legacy means a lot.

I know my parents had a lasting effect on my life. I will never forget them. Neither will my children. And their children will be told of them. I’ve written some posts about my dad (here and here) and one about my mom (here). They were good people.

I loved them.

I have a person in my life, someone important to me, who is angry with me. I found this out in a terse text message from him saying “never contact me again”.

His anger was born from a misunderstanding of the facts. I want so much to clear the air between us.  I would like him to know the truth about what happened and how I tried to make things work properly but was thwarted in my attempts by someone else.

I’ve tried to make contact but his text message put an end to that.

I believe I have many years yet before Leuk takes me and I hope that time will give opportunity for reconciliation.

Having a life threatening disease makes you focus on what really matters. For now, for me, I need peace and less stress. I wish I could take away his anger but I can’t control him or anyone else for that matter.

So I love him from a distance and focus on my immediate family: my wife, children and their spouses, and my grandchildren. There is so much love to nest in here. I thrive with them.

It would be sad if I die without seeing him. If that happens, though, I want him to know I understand his feelings and I really did mean him no harm. I forgive him and I hope he will forgive me.

If you have leukemia try your best to make repairs to damaged relationships. But if you can’t, don’t let the stress eat at you. Love them and move on. But never forget the good times and what that person means to you. Because getting right down to it, love is what matters.

When I kick the bucket I want to go out the right way, the only way: with love.

I’m discovering I have more readers than I thought. I’m told there might even be a man with leukemia reading this from Spain.

I don’t know that I’m really qualified to write this particular entry. My type of leukemia, CLL, is a slower moving form and since I am 61 I might live a full life. I am having a bone marrow extraction next year and may have other treatments, but my cancer is less threatening than most. Still I want to talk a bit about, well to be direct, death.

Death is something we are all facing, healthy and sick alike. Even though all 7 billion of us will face it, it’s still a very personal thing.

‘Stepping out’ is scary, Or, I should say it can be. And, of course, in war stricken and some Third World countries, many people die frightening and violent deaths. But I’m writing here about those of us lucky enough to die from more or less natural causes.

I’ve watched other people die (you don’t get to the age of 61 without having someone you love pass on) and I’ve noticed they shared one thing in common. Near the end each of them faced it calmly. I’m sure that during their lifetime they dealt with fear about how they were going to die, but when it happened it was a brave and even peaceful acceptance. One in particular, my father, and our family, even had surprisingly humorous moments the days before he passed.

Some of us believe in God. Some do not. And some just aren’t sure. There may actually be an afterlife. Some books even discuss evidential experiences of near-death patients. Whatever the truth is about what happens when we breathe our last, I think we don’t need to be afraid.

Fear plays a role the weeks before our demise, but from what I’ve seen, the days just before it happens come with a sort of peace,  a sort of phlegmatic acceptance. That’s not to say that the few seconds or minutes when it is actually happening can’t be hard, or even frightening. But those short moments have been shored up with one’s own preparation.

As you can see, I am stumbling here. You might even say I don’t know what I’m talking about. And you might be right. But this is what I’ve noticed in those I’ve lost. I can also say that those of us left behind suffer a much harder fate; that of grieving and learning to live our lives without the one who left us. I think I’ll talk about grieving in another entry. Grief is something I know more about than I’d care to.

Anyway, if you are living with Leuk right now and he is filling you with fear, that’s normal. You have every right to be scared. Just know that death, at the end, means your suffering and pain will be gone. I believe you can find a solace in knowing that. And who knows, there just may be something amazing on the other side.

Have you ever been on a roller coaster? As you are climbing towards the top, you are apprehensive of what is to come, and when you speed down the other side you really freak out. But when you near the bottom, and you know everything is going to be alright, your fear fades. I think that’s how death works. Even though you don’t know what’s on the other side of that hill, you will discover that the Engineer who designed the ride knew what He was doing.

Trust Him.

I just heard that a childhood friend, Shelly, passed away. She had cancer. I’m not sure which kind.

I haven’t seen Shelly since we were kids; her daughter wrote me with the news.

I remember Shelly as a happy girl. Not the kind of silly giddy happy of most teenagers, but a calm, peaceful happy. I don’t know if that calm happiness carried into her adult years. I hope so.

My parents had a resort when I was a kid and her parents would rent a summer cottage from us every year.  I have good memories of playing with her and her brother.

She was taken too soon. Way too soon.

It hits home pretty hard when someone near your own age dies. It makes the whole dying thing more real. I’m reassessing my life and how I’m living it. It’s time for some changes. I don’t know what they will be yet, but I can sense the need for adjustments.

I’m not feeling down or afraid, and I’m not whining. I’m just introspective right now.

Last week I had an ‘episode’ from another health issue I have unrelated to leukemia. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was serious enough to grab my attention.

Some of my priorities need shifting.

If you’re one of my readers who lives with Leuk I hope you aren’t afraid of him. Don’t forget that you have strong allies in Hope and Faith.

Oddly enough, I’m finding that Leuk can be helpful too He helps me focus on making my life worthwhile. I hope he’s doing the same for you.