No matter what beliefs we hold, nothing prepares us for death. Even the most spiritual among us become distraught when we hear that someone close to us is dying. Whether the person is elderly, having lived a full, wonderful life, and having died of old age, we still react with disbelief and sadness. Initially, we feel lost because we will never see that person again. We’ll never hear their comforting voice or experience their deep wisdom. (I’ll leave the idea of an afterlife for another discussion). 

But when a person is, by all accounts, vibrant and healthy, well under the age we normally associate with dying, unexpectedly succumbs to the effects of a random affliction, we are shocked and heartbroken. How do we make sense of something so arbitrary? Why did this good person’s life end so abruptly? Why her and not some evil person instead? It just isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair.

Believers ease their pain by acknowledging God needed her at this time and we must accept God’s will. But that rationale still doesn’t alleviate our suffering. We need a better reason. Our minds don’t want to accept that simple answer. Non-believers may derisively say, “Life’s a bitch and then you die,” which is callous and equally unfulfilling. Yet, when I heard yesterday that a friend who suffered a stroke a month ago, and who’d been in an induced coma since, will now be placed in hospice care, my heart broke in pieces. No way this healthy, active woman is days away from dying.

Fragility of Life

And she isn’t the only person I know suffering from critical medical issues this year. Another friend called me this week to tell me her daughter-in-law (in her mid-50s), suffered a “spine stroke” and is unable to walk. I’d never heard of that type of stroke and had to look that up online. And yet another close friend, who’d been living outside of the US for the past nine months, suffered a major heart attack, requiring quadruple bypass surgery. Doctors in the Latin American country where he is temporarily living, performed the life-altering surgery. Although my friend bucked the odds and survived, it wiped him out financially and he’s now jobless. My heart broke for him as he relayed the news to me.

And, by the way, he had more bad news. Two more mutual friends recently suffered their own devastating afflictions. Cancer returned with a vengeance to one person while with the other, a vibrant woman in her early 50s, a brain tumor left her paralyzed on one side of her body. Both now require the full-time care of their spouses. Thank God they both have that resource.

It was too much to hear all these stories in one phone call. My chest ached and my mind raced. I bowed my head and shut my eyes when I ended the call and thanked God for all my blessings. Especially for my health.

Live for Today

While I can go on and on about other friends and acquaintances who’ve suffered serious medical challenges this year—problems that may kill them sooner than later—my point in writing this blog is to remind us to cherish life and treasure our loved ones every single day. Don’t wait till tomorrow to tell them you love them. Don’t put off that trip of a lifetime because it may be too lavish. Tomorrow isn’t promised. We only have today to make things count. Act as if today is all you have left.   

Here’s a quote I copied from a recent email I received. It’s straight to the point:

Remember to take time, make time; there may not be a next time!

Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, laugh uncontrollably.

And never regret anything that made you smile!

Sadly, my friend in hospice passed away today. She is now living with the angels.