Reflections On Dying Today


My husband has been waiting for the pathology report following the biopsy of the large tumor over his left kidney.   The radiologist who looked at the MRI films thought the tumor was lymphoma, rather than a kidney cancer.   People have told us that the diagnosis of lymphoma might be good news.  They have reminded us that lymphoma is more easily treated than it was years ago.  Someone told me their relative with stage 4 beat the disease and is cancer free.  My older sister beat stage 3 lymphoma when she was 73.   She said, “You tell Howard that I beat it, and he can too.  You tell him that he is going to get better. ”

Even as we brace ourselves and prepare for the battle with cancer,  Howard and I realize that death is one possible outcome of whatever the widespread process in his abdomen and pelvis is.  While we wait, we find we are at peace with that outcome.   I remember some thoughts from a book a fellow nurse gave me in 1971 when I had only been married one year.

The thoughts from Notes to Myself by Hugh Prather resonate in my heart again now when I have been married 43 years:

“She may die before morning.  But I have been with her for four years.  Four years. There is no way I could feel cheated if I didn’t have her for another day.  I didn’t deserve her for one minute.  God knows.

And I may die before morning.

What I must do is die now.  I must accept the justice of death and the injustice of life.  I have lived a good life – longer than many, better than most.  Tony died when he was twenty.  I have had thirty-two years.  I couldn’t ask for another day.  What did I do to deserve birth?   It was a gift.  I am me – that is a miracle.  I had no right to a single minute.  Some are given a single hour.   And yet I have had thirty-two years.

Few can choose when they will die.  I choose to accept death now.  As of this moment I give up my “right” to live.  And I give up my “right” to her life…”

43 years.   I didn’t deserve him for even a day,  and yet I have been given all the days of 43 years with him.   I can’t feel cheated, if I lose him.   I will die today to any “rights”  I think I have on his life.   I open my hands and give him back to The Creator who gifted him with life 68 years ago.

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