At the age of 27, I was informed I had a large abdomen mass which was probably malignant. My mother was 37 when she died, and I could see myself in the same situation.
My wasn’t as concerned about dying as much as I thought about what would be left to even say about me when I was here. There is nothing exceptional about me. I dropped out of high school to take care of my mother before her death. I had one failed marriage, no children. The only good thing was I was a Licensed Practical Nurse. I had gotten my GED and at that time I was working in ICU in a small Catholic hospital.
I was in pain and scheduled for surgery at the University of Virginia Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. Most of that time I was depressed or in a haze from the pain medications. I had a lot of questions. I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff, looking down at my life and trying to determine what proof would be left after my death to say I was ever here.
What would people remember? What can I do to fix mistakes or missed opportunities to say “I love you” or “I am sorry.” It’s not like I was going on vacation and I will come back with new stories to tell about my fantastic adventures. Life continues to go on for everyone else. The truth is when I am gone, there will be no more jokes to share, no more tender moments to express my deepest emotions. Plain and simple. If I haven’t said or done it, when I take my last breath, it’s too late.
I realized everyone makes an imprint on this planet, including me and the people I know. Memories that begin from the moment we are born that continue until we take our last breath. Those memories are all that is left. Every day I see something that reminds me of family or a friend who has passed on. It can be a coworker, a teacher, a neighbor, or someone I just deal with while I was doing my normal everyday things. Some of the people are folks who would least expect that I even care if they lived or died. I find a lump in my throat on a tear trickle down my cheek when I remember them.
We can’t always be there to hold their hand and tell them we loved them. So many times I think of those who I love, know I love them but the words recently spoken is what comforts the soul and are the most important.
Many people leave a “will” giving their worldly possessions to those important to them. Few of us leave a letter or note to be sent to special people to let them know how important they were to us.
While you still can, make a list of those special people. Write them a note or long letter. Say what you want them to know. Address the letters and ask someone you trust to do this for you.
This can be your last chance.
I was given another chance. The abdomen mass was a large fibroid tumor and I had surgery. I went back to work and have used my experience to try to help my patients and their families.
I learned that when a person dies, there is a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of emptiness. I learned the importance of take the time before “you lay dying” to do what you can to fill that void.