Communion Of Dreams

You are going to die.
December 31, 2011, 9:35 am
Filed under: Health, Hospice, Survival

A good friend posted this to her Facebook status:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Recognize that? It’s from Steve Jobs.

Now, I’m not a Jobs fanboy. I’m not that big into Apple products. But at least in this regard, I think that Jobs had the right perspective. Your time here is limited. You are going to die. We all die. Live your life on your terms insofar as possible.

Jobs, by all reports, tried to hang onto life with all of the resources available to a billionaire, including a liver transplant and experimental treatments. I hope that he found the quality of life he had in the last years of his life satisfactory, on his terms.

Not a choice I would make. Nor, it seems, would it be the choice for most doctors:

Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5 percent to 15 percent—albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.

It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.

The whole article is worth reading.

I don’t mean to be morbid, here at the end of the year. Usually, this is a time set aside for celebration – either for celebrating a good year past, or celebrating the hope of the new year to come. So talking about death may be a bit ‘of a downer’, to use a phrase more popular when I was a young man. But I think it is important to be honest with ourselves that our time is limited, and we should make the most of it on our own terms.

Happy New Year.

Jim Downey

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Since this is also a time when people make resolutions, I think that may be the best one yet: “be honest with ourselves that our time is limited, and we should make the most of it on our own terms.” Hugs and good things for you in 2012, Jim.

Comment by ML

Thanks, and to you likewise!

Comment by James Downey

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