Sunday, June 05, 2011

I'm Not Dead Yet.

My father was initially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2000 or 2001. His doctor gave him six months. He went home, curled up on the couch, and stayed there for two days. On the third day he sat up, announced to his wife "I'm not dead yet" (probably not in the Monty Python voice), and proceeded to play guitar, watch football, and get drunk.

Through several months of treatment and testing, his cancer went into remission, and he lived - happily and healthily - until new tumors were discovered in 2008.

He died early Christmas Day, 2009. Less than a week before his death, he was performing with his band at a local pub - just as he had for all his adult life. He never stopped doing what made him happy, and when he passed he was surrounded by people who loved him, loved being around him, loved the person he was and the person he inspired others to be.

His last words to me were "What are YOU so worried about?" as I helped him back into his hospital bed. He never stopped joking around.

He fought cancer with hope. He didn't hate what his life had become. He didn't spew bile about the illness all the time. Yes, he bitched occasionally - he had every right to. Yes, he had days where he was in pain or couldn't eat. Yes, the treatments were often just as bad, if not worse, than the effects of the cancer itself. None of this mattered to him though. He just enjoyed his life, as much as he possibly could, until his time was up.

He was probably the strongest person I will ever know, and it's not because he was strong in the face of cancer. It's because he had the courage to live his life the way he wanted.

We're all dying right now. Every one of us. I could die tomorrow. You might feel robbed of the vague promise of longevity, but really you've been given permission to infuse your life with all the joy, enthusiasm, and reckless abandon most people wistfully reserve for their retirement.

You don't have to wait for the right job, the right person, the right season, the right place. You've been granted the right to live your life the best way you can, right now. And there are thousands of people here cheering you on.

So, do the things you've always wanted to do. Or just do the things that make you happy. Fill your time with enjoyment and appreciation. We should all be living our lives this way, because we could die at any moment.

Be kind to yourself, stay hopeful, and love what you have. My thoughts are with you.

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