There are lessons to be learned from the sick.
What can those who are very ill teach others about living? We should be paying vastly more attention to the things people with serious and/or life-threatening conditions have to say. The ill are often ignored, often because no one wants to break their own illusion of health.
It is too painful, stressful, and difficult to face.
This is a tremendous mistake, however. There are innumerable lessons to be learned from the sick. We are the ones who have had a glimpse of what may wait for us after this life. We are the ones who have a clear image of reality, the fleeting nature of life, and how precious our time here is. We are fully and completely aware of how frail these bodies are, and how quickly they can fail without warning. We no longer have time for denial, and we strive to make the most of every moment we have.
Christopher Hitchens, an American author, was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer. He wrote even after his diagnosis, and eventually published his last work, Mortality. I came across a quote from this book, and it struck me:
“To the dumb question "Why me?" the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: why not?”
― Christopher Hitchens, Mortality
I know that I have personally asked the question, "Why me?" on many occasions. I think it is an automatic response to being diagnosed with a serious disease. We question why this may have happened, but Hitchens clearly believed that we are simply one of 7 billion people on the planet. Why not us? If not us, who else?
"Health" is such a major focus these days, from diets, to exercise programs and supplements. Longevity is the focus of many, but in this attempt to achieve quantity, many people fail to strive for quality. Those who carry the burden of a serious illness quickly learn that our time should be spent enjoying every moment of these lives we have been given. Life is a gift, but it certainly doesn't come with a guarantee as far as length goes. We should never wait for tomorrow, next month, next year. We need to take advantage of today.
Here is my lesson:
Your birth certificate doesn't come with a warranty, much less a guarantee. Your success, happiness, health and longevity are all subject to change without notice. You take possession of your body, as is, no refunds or exchanges. It is recommended that you feed it well and expose it to regular exercise and avoid as many carcinogenic substances as possible. However, even with the best of care, it will ultimately fail. The timing of this event is unknown and unpredictable. The only promise made is that someday it will fail, regardless of your efforts. The sooner we become aware of the fleeting nature of life and understand this, the more likely we are to appreciate the underlying message: That life is a magnificent, transient opportunity. What is infinite, however, is the number of creative, enhancing, uplifting, altruistic, enlightening and loving acts that one may perform while here. Don’t waste a moment.