When I left the house for a run this morning an article I had read in, The New York Times, about end-of-life-care, aptly called, The Best Possible Day, was still circling my mind.
It was gnawing at me because just after a brief conversation with a friend about it, I read another article. The second article was about a 29 year old woman, Brittany Maynard, who moved to Oregon so she could choose her death date.
In the article Brittany shares with the reader that she has incurable brain cancer, she is dying. As in, her days left are bookended by weeks, not years. Having the medication to choose her last best day is a safety net, choosing her death date means she gets to control her death, versus the disease that is ravaging her body. Knowing she has the medicine and can choose has given her freedom. In her own words:
Now, I’m able to move forward in my remaining days or weeks I have on this beautiful Earth, to seek joy and love and to spend time traveling to outdoor wonders of nature with those I love.”
And that comment, combined with the idea of a–best possible last day–kept me company while my feet pounded the miles away.
Miles that two weeks ago, I could not run. Miles that less than 5 days ago, found me with thoughts of self-deprecation chattering at an all time high while I
ran walked. Thoughts which, if you have ever been a runner, sound like this… “Look at you, you can’t even make it a mile without walking, nice. Of course this sucks and is hard, maybe if you’d never quit you would’t suck right now. Cause you do. You suck. Right. Now.”
Instead I thought back over the past 24 hours, what if they were my last?
Yesterday as the sun dropped behind the horizon, for the first time in years I faced one of my greatest fears, I entered the ocean, even got my hair wet. Then, from the safety of the beach, I watched Jimmy swim. It was one of those beautiful moments that life gifts us, one where all that matters comes into laser focus. Not only had I faced my fear, I was still breathing. Jimmy was swimming, this wonderful man who has shared his life with me for over twenty years, was with me.
The sky was on fire with it’s pinks, oranges, grays and blues. Pelicans flew past hovering inches above the water while sand pipers skittered along the beach. And I was breathing.
Later at home, our daughter returned from her part-time job, she told us of a near miss car collision. Someone had cut her off, thankfully she responded defensively and avoided a crash. Laser focus again. My daughter was right there, looking us in the eyes, recounting a story that had frightened her. She was safe. And we all were breathing.
This morning Jimmy and I stood together on our bedroom deck. In the brisk air we watched as the brilliance of the moon began to return from behind the shadow marked by the lunar eclipse. In the warmth of his embrace I could hear his heartbeat. Under a sky littered with stars, we breathed.
As I finished my run, the part where I still need to walk up the hill to return home, I crossed the street to see what the quote of the day was. Someone, not sure who, has a sign posted to the back of their fence, everyday the words they choose inspire all who pass by.
Your greatest fears are created by your imagination. Don’t give into them.” –Winston Churchill
Once again, life served up a truth as if on a tee.
And as I wound my way back into our neighborhood I glimpsed a father, pink backpack hung over his shoulder, walking his little girl to their car. His head was bowed down as if nothing in the world was more important then what she was telling him. Tears sprung to my eyes as I watched him usher her into the car–I couldn’t help but think of Brittany Maynard–she was a little girl once.
And now with days left to live, Brittany is connected to all that matters in the end, the people and things she loves. Truth is we are all dying. The rest of us simply don’t know when…
How will you spend your Everyday Last Day?