On Living and Dying: It’s Amazing What Almost Dying Will Do For You

Feb 2014 landscape 2What I’m about to share requires a little background, an explanation or two.

Eric, my husband, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in October of 2013.  His health declined rapidly, to the point where we all agreed that it was over.   All his organs had begun to shut down.  The hospital released him to hospice, where he was expected to last a few days.

Somewhere after the first of the year 2014, the impossible happened.  Things turned around.  He got well enough to come home.  He is now eating like a champ, gaining weight, and well on the way to recovery.


This morning, my husband Eric and I were talking, as we often do early in the day.  We have a varying number of minutes, but we always do our best to connect with each other in the morning.

So this morning he mentioned that he was in the process of gradually cleaning up his work space downstairs, and making it more organized.

Then he said, “It’s amazing what nearly dying will do for you.”  He said it in a very-matter-of-fact way, and I burst out laughing.  You have to know a little about Eric to know why that’s so darn funny, but just so you know, he isn’t really known for being organized and neat and all buttoned up when it comes to an office or work space.  Nope.  Not at all.

To see him cleaning things up is totally stunning to me.  I’ve never seen him do this sort of thing willingly, happily, or with a spring in his step.

Wow.  That’s what I have to say about that!  :–)  And hey, I’m NOT complainin’!!!

So that prompted a larger discussion of “what nearly dying will do for you.”  I asked him to tell me more.

And this is what he said…

It changes what’s important (significant over time).  It changes what’s urgent (important now.)  And there’s a big difference.

It changes what I want to say to people.  It changes who I want to say it to.

One thing that has really shifted for me is the significance (to me) of other people’s opinions about me.  Frankly, I just don’t care anymore.  It’s not very important. Others are welcome to any opinion in the world, it just doesn’t impact me on a personal level like it did before.

The significance of my opinion about another person’s opinion has changed as well.  I feel more accepting of people, things and circumstances.  As a result, life happens with more ease.  I’m not DOING different things, but those things I’m doing are turning out differently.  It’s easier.

Being in this new place is a paradox.  It slows everything down, but simultaneously speeds everything up.  Almost dying creates a relaxed urgency if that makes any sense.

It’s all going to be the way it is, anyway, so there is plenty of time.  No rush.  Things are as they are.  People are as they are.

This experience has given me a different perspective about political issues.  I still see the inefficiencies and the ineffectiveness of what is going on.  I see the damage being done and the needless suffering being created.

So where I can, I’d like to help shine a light so people can see what they are actually doing.  I have no idea if Obama, Boehner and all the others are really trying to do the best they know how for the people, or if they have other motivations.  There is no way to really know for sure.

In 1992 when the Rodney King incident happened in Los Angeles, the city erupted out of control after the police officers were acquitted.  No matter what really happened or why; who was right or wrong, the point is that King had a near death experience at the hands of the police.  On the third day of the Los Angeles riots, King made a public appearance asking, “Why can’t we just all get along? Can’t we all get along?”  At the very least, it was a compassionate statement given what he had been through.

Things are really simple.  Learn to get along.  Be forthright.  Be aware.  Be there for yourself and others.  If you make a mistake, do your best to make it right and start over.

I’m really proud of my niece Angela, who is 17 and lives in Iowa.  I’ve had some interchanges with her lately on Facebook, and it is clear to me that she is developing a “free mind.”  She is developing her ability to think for herself and trust her gut.  I was 40 before I even started to do that.  She’s 17 and knows she can trust her inner signals.

There is something really gratifying about that to me.  Somehow, when Angela, the young one learns it, it reinforces it for MacKenzie, Terri and me.  There is progress being made and it has a forward, backwards, sideways, positive ripple effect.  Angela is contemplating big issues these days, what philosophers and teachers have wrestled with over the ages.

It is also a real eye opener to me how much people cared about me and how expressive they have been about it.  It has gotten easier over the years for me to express my love for others, but something happened to me in the last few months.  It is so much easier for me to say “I love you.”

So… I love you and I thank all of you for your expressions of love, support and caring for me, (and Terri) here on this Caring Bridge, on the phone, during your personal visits, in the mail or email.  However and wherever you’ve expressed them, I am grateful that you are in my life.  Now go tell somebody else that you love them…

death, dying, health, prostate cancer, recovery, Rodney King

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