A Meaningful Life is not Measured in Years

Hey Ya’ll, I thought this week I would post an excerpt from my book Love Trust Gratitude Healing: Turning a Battle into a Dance and Making Peace with CancerIt was during the lead up to my bone marrow transplant that I found myself surrounded by families with children who were going through cancer and various autoimmune diseases. The kids were incredible and the families were amazing. It was through them that I realized that a meaningful life is not measured in years. It matters only what we do to make it meaningful in the present through our actions. My best to you and yours. Here’s the excerpt.

It’s the children with cancer who go through their ordeal with the most nobility, honesty and openness. I got the chance to observe them in the waiting area on the sixth floor. These amazing kids displayed a dignity and grace that put to shame more than a few of the adult cancer patients who clearly showed they were suffering over their suffering. As adults we drag around decades of life. All our triumphs and failures and resentments and shoulda beens and coulda beens and mighta beens and now this had to happen. The children on the other hand just wanted to play and they did despite being hampered by their little catheters, ports and fatigue. A little girl around two or three years old would stand in front of her mom’s chair and dance waving her arms over her head and bouncing on her feet. She confirmed for me my choice of dancing in response to what ailed me.

The parents of the children carried themselves remarkably well through what could only be profound unrelenting stress and anxiety. Observing these incredible families led me to realize that a meaningful life is not measured in years. Like a mayfly, some of these children will blink in and out of the world but that makes them shine all the brighter. The impact and meaning of their brief time here may be all the more profound and impactful on the lives of their parents, brothers, sisters, doctors and nurses, everyone who crosses their path. This was further confirmed for me by a nurse I met post transplant who described an experience she had with a remarkable boy of twelve she cared for thirty years previously. She spoke of his situation, his openness and honesty as he faced certain death. “He would have been forty-two this year,” she said with tears in her eyes, “I’ll never forget him.”

Truly the children impacted the older patients waiting for their appointments. I know they impacted me and I’m the better for it. They have my deepest love, respect, and appreciation for their lives. My heart goes out to all who have suffered this fate. Cancer taking a loved one early does not in any way diminish the meaning of their life. More time does not equal more meaningfulness. That’s why kids play and we should as well, no matter the circumstances.

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