The Inevitable

There’s one aspect in life that has mastered full equality – death. Rich or poor, white or black, believer or atheist. We’ll all die one day, we all have only limited time given to us to make the best of our time. Make the best of our selves.

It’s the one thing fully out of our control. Unavoidable. Commonly, we choose not to think too much about death. Better so, as the life matters more than the death. But what about when the limited time left becomes known to us?

A loved one in my family was diagnosed with breast cancer just 8 months ago. Breast cancer being often treatable, we weren’t too worried. Now I learned the cancer has spread to the lungs. Now it’s no longer curable. Now it’s real – a death sentence. The unavoidable is drawing close.

In a situation like this, the treatment options are for potentially postponing the inevitable, not about the cure. I heard from my mom, that when her mom was diagnosed with lung cancer (a long time smoker) towards the end she refused the treatments which might have given her more time but decreased the quality of the time left. She had understood and accepted it. But all the more so, my mom felt now hurt and betrayed that her sister, now with the terminal stage lung cancer, still refuses to give up smoking. It’s understandable – those staying behind want to hold on to the remaining precious moments and not let go. It feels wrong that a person chooses to cut the already short time even shorter. We are used to being on a fighting mode – always keep fighting, don’t give up, miracles happen.

But it’s not that black and white. Whereas I would definitely urge smokers to quit, I do understand it’s easier to say than to do. Especially hard it’s understandably when you’ve been given the final warning.

Our lives are filled with unhealthy treats and habits. Unbalanced diets, lack of exercise, stress, deserts, alcohol, cigarettes and long list of other stuff are known to affect our chances for a healthy long life yet we still keep going. There are many ways for measuring quality of life but I’d say it’s every individual’s choice to define what matters for them.

I’m not judging my auntie for not giving up smoking as I believe in her mind it’s too late and she’s not ready to add to her burden. She probably needs the cigarettes for their calming effect and doesn’t have the strength for fighting the side effects of quitting. At the same time I understand m mom’s anxiety, losing a second family member to the cigarettes and being able to do nothing about it. People are not perfect. It’s horrible to lose a loved one and even worse so when you have to watch them destroying themselves and not being able to do anything about it.

People are different. Some have stronger self control than others. Some cope better under pressure as others. It’s also in our human nature to try and protect our loved ones. And it’s hard to let go.

I have no idea how it is to live knowing there’s only very little time left. That you might not make it to the next Christmas, are unlikely to have another birthday party. If I were to receive a message like that, I’d likely be tempted to grab something calming as well. I would hope there to be no big regrets present at the final moments. In my auntie’s case, I hope she’ll be able to find her peace.

Those of us who’ll stay behind, we do have the option to make choices which could give us more quality and time. Perhaps some damaging habits can be overcome with healthier options. At the end it matters how we lived our lives. The actions we took, the words spoken, love shared. Death is not the goal, life well lived is. To be able to say on the deathbed that we made the best out of the given time. Then there are no regrets shadowing the last moments.

Make the best out of your life, be the best person you can be. That’s my way forward.

 

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Published by

Outi Annala

A sustainability-enthusiast with a master's degree in social sciences and experienced working for public and private sectors and for an international Non-profit organization. Writing about life and all that matters in living a life to the fullest. Passionate about engaging the private sector to the development work, promoting partnerships between companies and non-profit organizations and initiating discussion and debates. Excited about life and living it to the fullest.

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