A hope note
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, and Tony Snow, President Bush’s press secretary, recently learned that their cancers have metastasized.
Some good news is that they have each lived good, full, successful lives (unlike some children who don’t get to grow up, or the masses living lives of quiet desperation). The bad news is that they likely will not reach their promised three score and 10.
As children we played a game, ‘What would you do if you knew you only had a year to live?’
I once heard Hans Selye give his answer. Selye coined the term ‘stress’ and was the 20th-century authority on the subject. In the early 1970s he was diagnosed with histiocytic reticulosarcoma, a disease with a 99-percent mortality rate.
He told us, ‘I was sure I was going to die. So I said to myself, all right now, this is about the very worst thing that can happen to you. But there are two ways you can handle this ‘ either you can go around feeling like a miserable candidate on death row and whimper away a year, or else you can try to squeeze as much from life now as you can.’ Selye lived for a decade after receiving his terminal diagnosis.
The great psychologist Abraham Maslow, after suffering a heart attack, wrote: ‘One very important aspect of the post-mortem life is that everything gets precious, gets piercingly important. You get stabbed by things, by flowers and by babies. Everything seems to look more beautiful rather than less, and one gets the much-intensified sense of miracles.’
So what would you do if you knew you only had a year to live?
Go for it. It may be later than you think.