My dear friend, Birdsong, has been faced over the past several months with the sorts of life-crises that make you stop and re-examine the way you live your life, even if you are one who is normally prone to living an "examined life," to misquote Thoreau. But today, her post is a bit more poignant than before, punctuated by the news of the unexpected loss of a family member last week and her children's pleas that she promise them she'll be there for them for a good long while (would that any of us could do this!).
Having come close to losing my own life to heart disease at the young age of 43 (and on the eve of turning 50 years old) I've spent the past 6 years re-examining how I spend the hours remaining to me. The quality of my life is important to me, as I'm sure it is to most of us, tho' we may not make a conscious attempt every day to ensure it. Family, love, craft, and doing work that is worthwhile are what count in my book.
Recently a family member of mine was diagnosed with lung cancer (you'll see the addition of the white ribbon on the sidebar below, in honor of those who struggle with this diagnosis). Like Dana Reeve ("Mrs. Superman," Christopher Reeve's wife), this woman never smoked. The announcement of this diagnosis was a shock, to say the least, as society is so smug to assume that those with this disease somehow "deserve" it for their poor lifestyle choices. (Do not get me wrong, please? I smoked for 28 years. It is a terrible addiction, and one that is difficult to overcome, but no one DESERVES a potentially fatal illness, regardless.)
In the last few months, I've been reminded again of the grace of Dana Reeve as she went about the last months of her life under the death-sentence of terminal lung cancer. I would wish for each of us the ability to move through our last days (if we know they are our last) with such equanimity.
If we don't know they're our last days, can we strive for the same anyway? Birdsong has been challenged by job loss and the redefinition of herself as a successful person. Just the sort of experience I went through when I had my heart attack and by-pass surgery 6 years ago, and lost my job. Birdsong has shown a propensity to grace in the writings on her blog.
Grace under pressure. Grace under fire. For all our angst-ridden thoughts when such crises strike, is it possible to remain detached, to try to view the bigger picture in the midst of chaos?
For me, losing my health and trying to rebuild it, was the catalyst to redefining myself and rediscovering the lost love of craft. (Birdsong never lost it!) I am blessed with an employer that treats their employees fairly, and so, for now at least, am secure in that respect, though in working for a nonprofit, none of us makes a lot of money! lolol
Knitting, sewing, and writing became the creative outlets I craved when I lost part of my sight to Lupus. Both allow introspection, as the needle and my fingers glide over the fabric to create my bags, or the bamboo and yarns combine with my fingers to create lace shawls or socks. Sewing, at least for now, allows me to supplement my smaller income. Blogging has allowed me the venue to write about the changes in my life post-heart attack and post-Lupus...The life I live is one I've built slowly, sometimes falling into the good things, sometimes actively making them happen.
Today, on the 32nd anniversary of the sudden death of my father from a massive heart attack (at the too-young age of 57), I'm remembering that my life, too, will end. And I can't promise anyone that it won't. I'm not ready for it to do so, but I know it will. I try each day to accept that it will be sooner than I want. I try hard to let the people I love know that I love them. I try to say what needs to be said now, not saving it for later, when it may be too late. I pray that I'll know and exhibit the kind of grace at the end of life that I admire so much in women like Dana Reeve, if I'm allowed to know that my end is near. And I hope, when that time comes, that I can still knit. Because it is the one thing, I expect, that will allow the space and have the power to create the state of grace I wish to be in at the end of my life.