Recently, a friend close to me was informed that he has a disease which, after some interval of time, is labeled “terminal”. He needed to talk, so we initiated a series of conversations from which a number of observations emerged, as well as raising a host of questions to be answered. As might be expected, topics included faith, family, and future, and he used another “f-word” to describe his perceptions relative to the state of affairs surrounding each of these.

We looked at the steps in the grieving process, whereby disbelief is followed by anger, sadness, and final acceptance, and we discovered that he is somewhere among all of these, varying even hourly as he seeks to find out information from the medical community bearing upon his longevity. Being a proactive person, he is attempting to initiate contacts and referrals to facilities dealing specially with his condition, rather than awaiting his doctor’s return from vacation in two weeks to look at treatment options. He began this new week with a huge smorgasbord of a blood panel, and will follow up tomorrow with a spinal tap seeking to determine the particular kind of auto-immune disease with which he has been saddled. With that knowledge, there is a chance that some modulation may be available to prolong his earthbound activity. His first thought about that was to see if the disease’s severity could be delayed until the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, but was told that would involve Divine Intervention or at least services of a priest. Maybe until the Broncos win another Super Bowl?  In any event, the “not knowing” what can be done is of extreme frustration to him, especially since his performance profile labels him as analytical in the extreme.

As children, we never consider death; when we are teenagers or young adults, we tend to regard ourselves as Immortal relative to our life on earth. What rational adults perceive as “risk taking” is not even a descriptor considered by youth, although my friend was always cautious throughout his growing years, certainly not one leading a wild existence. But even as adults, we usually don’t allow recognition of our mortality to enter into our priorities; we go about our lives with little thought given to the fact that “Yes, we all have to go sometime.” Hence, he raised the question used as the title of this essay, “What Happened to My Immortality”?

Our conversations strayed into thoughts of Faith and the Afterlife; I was able to make the point that Faith, as well as the act itself of Dying, is a personal thing.  Within that Faith is the personal concept of “What Happens Next”, the Heaven and the Hell along with all the roadside stops in between. I personally believe in some kind of life force which I share with all things which have lived , are living now, and will live in the future, and that we are all part of a Supreme Something that we don’t understand, and that created our Universe for a Purpose yet Unknown. I explained that I believe that when our physical self dies, that life force is still there, still part of that Whole. I want my physical body to go back into its basic components, the ashes of cremation spread about for continued use for new life on this planet.

He decided to give all of that some thought, realizing that any acceptance must be something generated from within himself and not something imposed by either me or some other entity such as an organized religion. I’ve often wondered myself how devout many of us are as True Believers; I’ve watched the rituals of Communion, the masses of Muslims at prayer, and all those similar actions and speculated about how many were merely going through the motions to satisfy some social expectation and not really be “committed”. We did recognize that for those who truly believe, they are able to find real relief within their faith from the trials and tribulations of human existence. I referred him to a poem, “The Harbormaster”, which I had written to express that thought.

We even spent some energy wondering why there even are “organized religions”, where people seem satisfied with the status quo and  become a social “herd”. By doing so, it relieves the pressure of having to make decisions, so they can turn their attention to other things. The same is true of any large grouping requiring a personal commitment to an idea, a concept, or a belief. The depth of that commitment is another question. Social activists, on the other hand, are those who don’t follow the herd, and while that’s the major source of social change, it’s balanced by that herd complacency which provides the balance in society. We can’t have everyone being an activist; I believe that borders on anarchy.

We went on to discuss life in general, realizing that the sadness in the grief lies in not being able to experience all the good things that are on “his plate”—watching grandkids grow and mature, seeing his own kids married and successful, more world travel—things that may be sequentially snatched away as he loses the ability to drive, to walk, to write, and even to talk. How he comes to terms with all this is still “unwritten”; he is thankful that there appears to still be Time to address all those new thoughts and questions. Perhaps somewhere in there are some really good answers.

Always Be Hopeful!                                                                                                                                        Thankful For You!

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