Wednesday, August 11, 2010
"Why do you live?" is the question Lord Voldemort asks Harry Potter in the trailer for HP & the Deathly Hallows, part 1. Harry replies, "Because I have something worth living for." And this is, of course the August Big Question for the UU Salon.
This is likely to be one of the most personal blog posts I've ever written. You've been warned.
Why do I LIVE?
On the most basic level, I live because my mother gave birth to me. But, even this is not a simple answer. I was a premie, born almost 2 months early, at a time when that meant my survival was pretty darned dicey. I am alive because I was born in a hospital (unlike my parents), a hospital which was my home for my first month of life. I owe my life to the General Practitioner who delivered me (one of the last of the old "country doctors") while listening to the World Series on the radio - which my mother distinctly remembers. I owe my life to the nurses who took care of me. And in a very real way I live because of the message transmitted to me by my mother all the times she told me the story of my birth and infancy.
Life is precious, never give it up until there is no hope.
Fast forward to when I was 18 years old... My mom underwent surgery for breast cancer. Everything was hard - the surgery, the follow up radiation treatment, the scars, and the lymphedema that makes one of her arms twice the size of the other. Yes, she survived - and is still living 35 years later. I live because my mom showed me how to get through one of the worst things that can happen. And I'm glad because...
As anyone who has read this blog for awhile knows, I'm also a breast cancer survivor (10 years!). In the words of one of my oncologists - my cancer was not "your mother's cancer." Medical advances made the whole process much easier for me. And yet, at times when I'm dispirited or depressed I think, "I could have given it up then. I could have allowed the cancer to kill me." But I didn't - and I think that's where the question gets interesting.
WHY do I live?
*Because I want my own children to understand that hanging onto life is a good thing.
*Because I want to see what happens in their lives - I could have missed the last 10 years, seeing them go to proms, graduate from high school, fall in and out of love, and become the awesome young adults they are.
*Because I have a spouse who I love and who loves me - and I want to see what's in the future for us.
*Because, after raising 3 children, I have answered a call to ministry - and done the work and been accepted into preliminary fellowship - and I'm eager to do what I'm called to do with this precious life.
*Because I know that even small things have great impact. There is an elderly woman I see at church from time to time, who occasionally reminds me of a very brief conversation we had almost a decade ago. She says it helped her during a crisis in her life. Now, I know what an impact this woman has had on my life - I want to still be living with such zest when I reach her age - but imagine if we hadn't had that conversation. Would she have had a similar one with someone else? Maybe. But it's cool to know it made a difference - and reminds me that I need to take care with my words!
*Because there is still so much to be done, so many causes to rally for, so many friends to meet, so many times to celebrate, to mourn, to struggle through...
*Because I've sat with the dying (including my own father) and their families. I've walked with people who struggled with accepting hospice as the next best alternative when medicine could do no more. I've been one of those who struggled with removing life support from a loved one when hope for any kind of recovery was gone. As a minister, I've eulogized women and men, loved and unloved, and every life - EVERY life - has mattered.
*Because, to paraphrase Mary Oliver, every day something more or less kills me with delight! The ordinary sight of goldfinches at the feeder, the surprise of seeing hummingbirds in our front garden, the feel of water splashing on me from a waterfall, the view from on top of a cliff, the smell of fresh ripe tomatoes, the sounds of birds and bullfrogs, the quizzical looks the cat and dog give me when I talk to them - as if they're actually considering how to engage in conversation.
Because this life is worth living, and I mean to embrace it fully before I exit this world.