Living While Dying

Jan 14, 2023

When you hear something once you may dismiss it.  When you hear it a second time, you perk up. When everywhere you look or listen you hear it, see it, and feel it- you know you better pay attention.

This has been that kind of a week.  I have been immersed in the stories of others- the rest of their story.  Not the surface, how was the weather type stuff.  But the real stuff.

And ironically I had the father of a nine-year-old boy who wasn’t very talkative tell me this- He isn’t much on small talk.  Hey buddy.  I get it!  Me too.  Let’s ditch the surface stuff and get to the heart of the matter!  I just haven’t had many vocalize it that way.  

How many of you are like me? 

You can only talk weather and news for so long before you crave substance.  You crave more.  You want to know what is really going on.  Or maybe it’s just me…

So this week has been all about perspective.  Everywhere I look.  Every conversation I have.  There is a perspective lesson in all of it.

As promised, I wanted to dive in a little deeper from my Wednesday post.  Again, if you haven’t seen that post and as a reminder, this is told with permission.  

Sometimes in life you make a special connection with someone.  You find a common ground or share common interests and the connection just feels logical.  This is the case with my patient.  My friend.  

United by the frustration of tinnitus several years ago and realizing that we both struggled with ringing in our ears, we started having more substantial conversations, both trying to get some relief but mostly sharing how God seems to be working through it in a dependence sort of way.  

As we caught up this Wednesday, I knew he had been struggling.  He is about my age and has two kids.  And he has cancer.  Again.  And it is complicated.  There have been diagnoses and prognoses that have been discussed and shared.  And while it is a much better time in history to have this kind of cancer due to advances and treatments, it is not curable.  

He is my age. 

With two kids.  And a wife.  And dreams for the future.  And a tough reality to swallow.  

He likely has a better idea of his approximate time to meet Jesus than I do although we never know how life will unfold.

And as we finished up with his appointment on Wednesday and I was done for the day, I felt the nudge to lean in for even more of the rest of the story.  Knowing that the prognosis was not rainbows and butterflies, I asked him some really pointed questions and gave him the option to not answer if he wasn’t comfortable sharing.  

What I heard next brought tears immediately and sobbing later when I was alone as I put myself in his shoes and tried to imagine what this would be like and then a massive wave of gratitude that almost knocked me over as I surveyed the blessings of health in my life and my family’s lives.  

I did NOT hear the story of a defeated man. 

I did not hear the story of someone who had resigned themselves to a fate.  I did not hear woe is me.  

What I heard was inspiring as he talked about how optimism isn’t a choice for him.  He has decided to remain optimistic.  He has decided to live his life with a concern on impact.  You see he has a strong burden on his heart.  A burden we could all learn from.

His burden is to live the life God wants him to live.  He savors the moments with his teenage kids more than he used to.  He is certainly frustrated by the side effects of medications that keep him alive and prolong his life so he can have more impact, but they affect his quality of life.  

He is very thankful that he can continue to work and support his family in a place where a lot of people need to hear about Jesus.  And they need to see someone who lives like Jesus.  So while he is living, he is also dying.  As are we all.  Just at different paces.

I left our time inspired. 

But even more I left challenged.  Challenged by the things I had worried about.  Not guilt.  Not shame.  But challenged.  

That, however, is not the lesson here, although it would be a good one!

The lesson is this- We all have stuff.  Stuff that is important to us.  And we focus on it.  That is what we do.  The key, I think, is to not be so focused on it that we don’t see the stuff others are struggling with.  The stuff that is important to them.  

If we only see us- and that is the trend in our world- to stay focused on ourselves- my day, my schedule, my money, my to-do list, my social media likes, followers, and comments- we miss out on one of the richest parts of life.

Relationships with others.  Others who need someone in their corner to share life with them.  Others who will see them, look them in the eye, and not be afraid to do life with them- the good, the bad, and the ugly or messy.  

In the midst of all my stuff is my friend.  And the things he is facing.  And I wouldn’t have had a clue if I would have never asked.  

When we share our stuff and offer love- we ask this question- What does love require of us in this moment?  And then we do that thing.  

Then we are all lifted.  

Everyone has a story.  And everyone has a rest of the story.  The question is this- will we be caught up only in the details of trying to make our story perfect or will we find out more about another?

My friend is a rockstar and his story is inspiring.  We can all learn from him.  And every day we cross paths with amazing people that we can also learn from.  The question is- will we lean in?

Will we #WINtheNOW for another?


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