Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Live Like We're Dying.....

The Dailies is very proud to present today's guest blogger, one of my very best friends, Julie Cyphers.

Live Like We're Dying

What would you do if you were dying?  Who would you think of?  What words would you choose in your final prayer to God? 
As you answer these questions you’re likely envisioning a horrific crash; blood; a shattered windshield and a few brief moments to say your peace with your Creator and maybe a final plea to absent ears of your love for your family, friends, a spouse.
What if you had 3 years to think about it?
There’s good reason we don’t tackle these questions.  They’re hard and painful and somewhat inconceivable to those of us who are graced with health and youth.  We put these thoughts off in the same manner that we put off funding our retirement – they are issues that come with age, we reason.
Last week, I watched the second of my two closest friends be laid to rest.  He was 28 years old.  My first experience was with my best girlfriend, at age 23.  Two brilliant people, two families shattered beyond repair, countless lives altered in ways that may never be completely understood; two very different deaths. 
Tiffany died in a car accident, the paramedics like to call it instant.  You hear that on the news but it never resonates with any level of comprehension until it’s your person, ‘instant’.  How instant exactly is instant you begin to wonder.  How much time, even if in milliseconds did she have? Was she scared, did she pray, did she even have time know?  From a medical perspective, I’m not sure what instant means, but in a personal light, instant leaves a grey area that hurts you for them.  Partly you hurt because you wonder if they hurt, partly you hurt because you’re scared they didn’t have time to say what they wanted or needed to.
Alex learned he was sick in the summer of 2007 at the age of 25.  It took a little over a year for a world of doctors and by world, I mean that literally, doctors around the globe looked at him and his tests, before the hammer came down: an exceptionally rare and 100% deadly form of cancer.  No one had ever lived from it.  No one.  Their deaths were painful and their lives short.  He was 26 years old when he received his death sentence.  No one could tell him how long he had, all they knew is it wasn’t long.
What would you do if you were them?  You’re in the height of your twenties.  Finally, after years of acne in high school, broken hearts in college and missteps in the job world, you’re finally, finally getting your feet under you as a grown up and then it’s all gone, in an instant.
I’ll never know what Tiffany did, I’ve thought about it until my mind ached, but all I’m left with is my knowledge of her and how she handled life to try to grapple with understanding how she handled death.  First, she probably said “oh shit” and then she prayed.  It was a prayer of thanks for all He’d given her.  She’d made her fair share of mistakes, as we all have, but she made them with an unforgiving tone, a tone that said, “my blemishes make me who I am and who I will become, for that I have nothing to be ashamed”.  So, her final words weren’t of apology on a final day of reckoning, but words of thanks for all that she’d be given and all that she’d been enabled to give.
Alex had more time.  More time to wonder and worry and panic.  More time to grieve and beg.  More time to make promises and deals with God.   His initial instinct that drove him through most of his time of illness was one of arrogance and I mean that in the nicest of ways.  It was what made Alex, Alex.  Heck, he had a lot to be arrogant about –  he was wicked smart, hilariously funny, the best chef I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating their food, the most amazing skier that has ever graced the mountains in the state of West Virginia by a long shot and as if that weren’t enough he somehow also learned to play the piano like he was Elton John.  Alex confronted cancer with a degree of arrogance that ignored medical reality and reasoning.  He had a confidence from within that he would conquer this fight.  “Jules, you’ll see, when this is all said and done I’ll be in every medical journal ever written and they’ll be talking about how I’m the one, the only one that ever made it.  It’ll be awesome.  Just wait, Jules.  Trust me.”  And he meant it, from the core of his soul, he meant it.  He believed in the power of God and the power of prayer far more than the power of medicine and science.  His belief so strong that it didn’t matter what Ivy League medical school you graduated from, you had nothing on Alex and his faith in God and his desire to live.  It wasn’t until February of 2010, only 3 months prior to his death, that Alex walked into the office of his Priest and confessed that he was scared… and mad.  He was conflicted, really.  How do you, in the final hours of your life, ask forgiveness from the God that is the one taking your life away?  How do you ask him to be in your heart and confess your love to Him, when he’s the cause of your loss?  I think he accomplished it in the best way imaginable, he let it all go.  He handed his fight over to God.  I think he finally felt like, I don’t understand, and for the record I’m pretty pissed off about it, but it’s more than me now, I’ve fought all I can fight and I’m giving this to you.  His life span, following his diagnosis, was far longer than ever anticipated.  I believe God waited for him.  I believe he knew that Alex needed to fight.  Alex’s family needed the fight.  We all needed it.  It was too hard for it to be ripped away in an instant, he needed to have a chance so that we could truly believe that it was out of our control, even though, in reality, it never was in any of our control – not Alex’s, not the super unbelievably qualified doctors, it was in God’s hands from the beginning.  God waited for all of us to see that and understand it.   He left this world, not completing understanding God’s plan and why he dealt Alex the cards he got, but with a deep understanding that regardless of whether we get it or like it, God is our creator and his plans for us are so much more than we will ever be able to comprehend and that ultimately all you have to do is say “I’m sorry for my sins and am thankful for all you gave me and now I’m yours.” That’s all God needs and Alex learned for himself and for me in the process, that is all we, as people need.  We don’t always have to ‘get it’, we just have to recognize that our purposes and all of our fights, struggles and accomplishments are all His.  


Kris Allen - Live Like We're Dying: "Kris Allen"



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