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
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.