When Death Comes Knocking

Posted on October 26th, 2007 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

Don’t misunderstand this post, I am not trying to be pessimistic. There are, however, a few things in reality that happen when you get news of a poor prognosis. For some, death doesn’t bother knocking, it just barges in the door unexpected and unwelcome. For others, something like a cancer diagnosis can become like a knocking on the door. You get the warning, but the guest is still unwelcome. Death is the kind of guest that if you see it coming down the driveway, you lock the door and hide behind the couch, hoping it will think you are not home. At this stage, I feel like I am continuing on with my day, not hiding behind the couch, just walking around the house with music playing on the stereo. If I need to go out, I am using the front door, kindly excusing myself as I walk past the unwelcome guest. When the sound of the knock first came though, there were a few thoughts that came into my mind.

One of the first things that I started to think about, funnily enough, or not funnily enough, was considering who would be my pall bearers. I think this is because I feel surrounded by an incredible brotherhood that have looked after me as their own flesh and blood. This bond is strong, so I am not surprised that it was one of my first thoughts. Supported in life, supported in death.

The knock for me heightened my awareness of grief. It is ironic that one is not able to fully mourn their own death. Once you are dead, your ability to mourn has been taken away. This is not to say that grief does not take place now though, and for various reasons. The first of which would be through empathising with my wife, family and friends at their loss. I cried many times thinking of their grief if things didn’t work out for me. It crushes me thinking of the grief that they would go through, and although I don’t dwell on it, I would be lying if I said that it was not a real part of my thinking.

The knock also brought on a grief of another kind. At the time of diagnosis, I had already experienced loss. I had lost my mobility, my independence in getting from place to place, my pain free body and a relatively carefree approach to my future. After my original diagnosis, we were looking at a week before I would start chemotherapy. I thought during that week, “This could be the last week that I have my mobility, ever.” You would think that I would be out and about, making the most of the ability that I had. I should have been walking through parks, smelling roses, running in slow motion along the beach. But I didn’t. Instead, I found myself watching crud daytime TV shows, pottering around the house, and doing everything but ‘seizing the day’. This is not everyone’s experience, but it was mine. It may be understandable considering the shock and grief, but it was not the way I would have expected to respond.

The knock made me more aware of others that had been in this same situation. Knowing that I was still at the beginning of this journey, I thought more of others who had dealt with what we were now facing and how they appeared so composed and real in the light of dealing with issues that can seem quite surreal. I have to say, there is a difference between filling in a will when you are healthy to when you fill in one after a poor prognosis.

So at the moment, I think that death knocking has subsided for a time. You may be thinking that talking about death in this way has a pessimistic outlook. If it is, excuse me for not joining you in this. I have every reason to be optimistic, but every reason to be realistic also. There is a fine line between denial and being optimistic. I could state that I am not going to die and some may say I am being optimistic. But I am not going to walk around declaring that death is not a possibility. Death is, in fact, guaranteed for all of us at some point on our life continuum (usually towards the end). I believe, however, that I won’t be beaten by death as this is a promise my creator has made. This is not to be confused with the possibility that I may be taken “before my time”. Optimism can be applied to God’s promise that death has been beaten, that we all may live long and happy lives, that poverty will vanish, and that I will be able to buy a Ferrari. However, only one of these is guaranteed.

My preparation for death does not mean I am opening the door and inviting death to take a seat. I am hoping for a long life and I am looking forward to everything I was looking forward to before, only now it is with more intensity. When I hear the knocking again, I am not expecting to hide behind the couch. But I am not promising that I won’t be turning the stereo up a tad.

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