Thursday, March 20, 2008

Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. ~ Author Unknown

It has not been a good month, but it has provided ample opportunity for self-reflection.

My sister, KM, was diagnosed with lung, spine and hip cancer. She also has cancer clusters all over her body, particularly very painful pressure points. She received radiation treatments to reduce the tumors in order to relieve some pain and she is now receiving chemo. Her husband, TM, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He has been released from the hospital, no longer receiving any treatments except to control pain and is now under home hospice care. They have two older children, one in college and one in high school. My brother-in-law is at home waiting to die. My sister is fighting for her life and praying for remission. The odds are not on their side. I cannot imagine a greater tragedy.

These great personal challenges and struggles make my own look petty, but it is hard not to begin to really examine one's own mortality, particularly if you are well into "senior" status as I am.

I have laid awake at night sometimes just thinking about the life I have left. I always thought I would live to be 85 or 90 years old, which would mean another good 25 to 30 years. After all, what's stopping me? I'm fairly healthy, although overweight. I take medication for hypertension which I could eliminate if I lost about 20 pounds. Why I have not taken on that challenge up until now, I don't know. It seems ridiculous when I look at it now.

Then, when my mother died a few years ago, I talked to an aunt who informed me of the family "curse"; that no one on my mother's side of the family had lived to be 77 years old. If I take that "curse" seriously, that shortens my life to about 15 more years. I thought, oh my God, I've lived here in Arkansas for 15 years and it's gone by in nearly a blink of an eye.

I'm not afraid of death, but the thought of wasting a moment of my remaining years is daunting. There are a few things I want to achieve and I need to start working on them now in earnest.

I have started this Couch-to-5K program so many times I can't count them on both hands. A couple of years ago, I challenged my grandson, Jacob, to train and run a 5K with me. He ran his first 5K last year. I wasn't with him. It's time I met that challenge, even if I have to do it alone!!

I am afraid of heights. Tom and I went hiking at Petit Jean Mountain Park last year and a portion of the trail frightened me so much I started to shake and almost had a panic attack. I want to hike that trail again with more confidence, less fear and no panic attack.

I want to grow more flowers. Every year for the next 15 years I want to grow all different kinds of flowers. I want to nurture every bud and relish in the beauty of every bloom.

I want to write. I want to write everyday and about everything. I don't want to lie in bed in the middle of the night composing paragraphs in my head and not remember them in the morning. God gave us our souls and our hearts to share. My words are my soul, my heart and my mind and I want to share them and share the words of others if they will allow me.

And, finally, I want to write my autobiography... every joy, every sorrow, every achievement, every disappointment, every triumph, every failure, every truth and every lie... I want my husband, children and grandchildren to know everything about me that I've never taken the time to share with them. I want to also write a letter to each one to let them know what special gifts they have, what wonderful people they are and all of the joys each one of them have brought to my life.

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