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Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas




by Soraya (2005)

The tragedy of the tsunami that hit South Asia this past December, the pain and suffering surrounding the Terri Schiavo story, and even the recent death of Pope John Paul II have all inspired me to re-evaluate my own existence. Like many others that have been through a life-threatening illness, I took this journey a few years back after my cancer diagnosis. But I must constantly check myself to make sure that I do not get lost and forget the valuable lessons that that hardship and pain taught me. The only certainty we can count on is the uncertainty of life. Twists and turns come without warning, and all that we perceive to be true can change in a fleeting instant.

I think of the tourists sitting on the beach, looking out at the vast Indian Ocean, watching their kids play in the sand. Then, in a few short, terrifying moments, all is gone. I think of the villagers, those that survived, wading through the muck searching for their lost lives. The "I should have"s or "I wish I had"s do not exist anymore. There is no time for a warm hug, a long gaze, or another "I love you." The tomorrow they had envisioned will never come. That time is gone.

I think of Terri Schiavo. I look at the picture of her before the heart attack that began her demise. How beautiful she was. Then I see the picture seen by millions around the world, the one with the blank look and open mouth. In the prime of her youth, why would she have thought to prepare a living will? She was young and vibrant with a long, healthy life ahead of her. But in a brief moment, all of that changed. Her tomorrow became encapsulated in a hospital bed with an endless stream of minutes flowing agonizingly into themselves. She is now physically gone, and we will never know how much she suffered nor what her wishes truly were. Her family is left shattered while she is now finally resting. The tomorrow they were all looking forward to dissolved the day she lost consciousness.

I think of Pope John Paul II. Having seen Parkinson's disease and life's time clock break down someone very close to me, I breathed a sigh of relief when the pope passed. He had a full life. He accomplished much. His passing is a joyous occasion. Death is inevitable, and it should be welcomed at the end of a good life. Sometimes tomorrow comes just as it should.

We have become so attached that we forget that all we love, all we have, all we aspire to be is on loan. Life and love are gifts for us to cherish and treasure, but they are gifts that can go away without warning. That is what makes love so intense. That is what makes life a miracle. The uncertainty of tomorrow is what should inspire us to appreciate the here and now.

Youth tricks us into thinking that we can prepare and plan. Fresh faces think that time is on their side and nothing will ever go wrong. Tomorrow, they think. There is always tomorrow. I don't have to think about that now. I'll tell him how I really feel about him some other day. Maybe next year I'll go get a check-up. I'll take care of that later. I'll say thanks to my mom next weekend. Tomorrow it'll be fine.

But when tomorrow came for me, I ended up sitting in front of my doctor in a peach-colored gown hearing from him that my life was no longer what I thought it would be. When tomorrow came for the families of the tsunami victims, they were searching for bodies and cleaning up the rubble that was once their homes. When tomorrow came for Terri Schiavo, she could no longer express her emotions or thoughts. When tomorrow came for Pope John Paul II, he must have felt relief to be freed from the body that had failed him.

Take a moment to think about all that you put aside until tomorrow. Call your mom or dad. Make amends with an estranged friend. Spend a long moment holding your child and memorizing every turn in his or her face. Make time to take care of yourself. Turn off the television and have a conversation with a loved one.

When you love knowing that love is a gift, when you know that your body is your temporary gift in this lifetime, when you realize that none of our material possessions matter nor remain with us when the loan is called in, that is when you are freed to truly live.