Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"Today is a good day to die"

Please don't panic! I'm not losing my will to live, or contemplating the end, I just had another epiphany today in what may feel like my ongoing litany of living in the moment.

For those of you who have responded to my blog, by posting a response online, or by emailing me, I value the way you are reflecting back to me what speaks to you in what I have to say. Whether or not you are struggling with or have struggled with a cancer diagnosis, or whether you are or have been a caregiver to someone with cancer, whether you are someone who has stumbled on my blog and found it has something to say to you, or whether you are a friend who loves me, I thank you for being part of this online conversation.

Today was a stunningly beautiful late summer day in Boston. The sky a perfect blue, with wispy white clouds providing contrast. The air was warm in the sun, cool in the shade, comfortable with short sleeves, and invigorating to walk in. And walking I was, around 2:00, from Beacon Hill to Back Bay in Boston, to a dental appointment. (Since I like my dentist and was just going to have a fallen-out filling replaced, I had no dread about the appointment, just a sense of purpose.) And, I am moved to say, it was just such a perfect weather and sky day on September 11, 2001 in Boston, spurring memories of that day. Still, moving my body, seeing the interplay of light and shadow on the ground from trees and leaves, I felt transported to a state of pure joy. It was a moment, a moment that reminded me of this line: "Today is a good day to die."

The first time I heard someone say it and mean it was during a two week canoe trip with 15 other adults on the north-flowing Harricanaw River in Canada, about fifteen years ago. We were more than halfway through our wilderness adventure of canoeing to James Bay, and one morning we awoke to a sandy river beach, a gorgeous blue sky, and a perfect temperature. One of my fellow travelers, Terri, said, "Today is a good day to die." I didn't initially know how to take his comment, but then I got it. We were challenging our bodies, experiencing terrain new to us, living in the moment. We were in the right place, at the right time, and our trip was beginning to flow like the river. If our lives had ended that day, we could have died happy, knowing we were living in the moment and doing something we loved.

As I thought about sharing my insight from this afternoon, I worried that some of you, my friends, might panic. I briefly considered the title of "This moment is a good moment to live, not die," because it was a feeling of the moment, but the title definitely lacks punch. When I left the dentist about 90 minutes after my "moment," the air was cooler, the sun not so bright, and though I hoped that the feeling of perfection would return, it didn't. Because I think that it's not really about "perfect days" [for dying, or for living], but rather about "perfect moments" for living, and for realizing that, in those moments, we can be transported beyond our ordinary selves. In that moment this aftenoon, I felt the rightness of the day and my place in it. For that moment, nothing else mattered. Even cancer.

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