Posted on March 4, 2015
Last Wednesday, I attended my last pre-operation classes in the second year of my diploma. I said goodbye for now to my classmates, said I’d see them in a few weeks, and at the time I had a faint hope that I might complete my diploma, and even pursue a career in the field. You know, make a contribution?
Yesterday, I wandered back in, I hadn’t even missed a class. It was like nothing had changed, but for me, everything changed in that 7 days between one Wednesday and the next. The last faint hope that my days on this earth would number many, and I would continue my march towards my three score and ten, well, that was gone. I wore a new label, that of terminally ill, and I felt I wore it not as a discreet little badge on my collar, but a massive neon sign above my head. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel that, at least to other people, I was a little different, a little ……less because of this. Like the neon sign had sucked all the colour out of the person underneath it.
In class we talked about motivation, and a little bit about vision. How the ultimate motivation was survival itself, and how in order to achieve something, we had to be able to envisage it. I certainly felt the message about survival, and the vision used to apply to me, back in the days when I was all about the destination and not the journey.
We moved onto talking about the elderly, and how to motivate them to want to keep what control they still had over their lives when things were taking a serious march downwards. And all of a sudden, I knew what it was like to be old, in a way that I will never know it in real time. Because I think that to be terminally ill is to somehow lose your value. That your worth is measured in what contribution you can make to the world, and how much longer you are perceived to be able to make it. You see, I know that many people don’t understand why I was sitting in that class yesterday. In the last five days it has been asked out loud, and I have seen it left unspoken on peoples lips.
I’m not in denial. I know the chances are that I will never complete that diploma, never realise the vision that I had a couple of years ago that motivated me towards that destination. But I’ve learned to find beauty in the every day, and the destination now is not one that I want to think about at all. I know the expectation for me is to sit at home and tick off some sort of bucket list, fill my days with hedonistic pursuits and social occasions, and holidays. And sure, I would love to see Rio de Janeiro from the statue of Christ, fly over Manhatten another time, and land at JFK. I’d like to climb the steep streets of San Francisco again and wander through Haight Ashbury, as though I were a punk rocker with flowers in my hair. Yep, as you can see, if you’re me, livin’ like you’re dyin’ is a very expensive business! So, I’ll just have to settle for living like I’m living.
Someone said to me the other day that what was left of my time now was owed to those I will leave behind. To prepare them for the practicalities of life without a mother, to write my husband a long laundry list of the girls requirements, clothes and shoe sizes, where to order uniforms, how to get Georgia’s yearly nappy allowance. And to be honest, I will probably do that at some stage, but I won’t do it now.
Nope, for now, I am going to keep on teaching my girls how to hold onto that beautiful gift that is inherent in childhood, to be able to live the guts out of every day you have. I don’t want them to ever, ever lose that, not even when the harsh realities of adulthood try to seize it. I want to teach them to be resilient, to adapt with their changing world, but to do it without being bitter and cynical and looking for someone to blame for the way the cards were dealt. And most of all, I want to teach them to never, ever give up, to realise they have something of value to offer every single minute that their heart beats inside their chest. I want them to know if the great figures of history had known they were going to be felled early by a heart attack, cancer, or the bullet of an assassain, they might have done something differently, and the world would have been a lesser place. And the best way of teaching, is by doing.
So for now, I am getting on with living. If you’re my friend, come and see me, and lets have some fun. Smile at me and give me a cuddle, you can’t catch death, because it doesn’t dwell within me. In a few weeks, I will turn 44. Perhaps I’ll have a party and you will all come. There’s plenty to celebrate – I’m still here.
And to my TAFE mates, I’ll see you in class. Indefinitely