Last time I wrote about my birthday reflections and received feedback that people really enjoyed reading them, so I have a few more reflections I want to share.
In some of my posts I mention my faith. I don’t always get to church often, mostly because mornings are very tough for me, but that does not reflect on how important my faith is. I believe my faith has helped me get through these past few years. My two favorite seasons of the church are Advent and Lent. These are not to be confused with Christmas and Easter, which are very important in the church year, but it is the preparation for them that is most important for me. Advent and Lent are not only about preparing for Christmas and Easter, but about focusing on the journey towards these two awesome celebrations. I have always said that getting there is half the adventure and we should not focus solely on the destination.
I try to get all of my shopping done prior to advent so I can concentrate about what the birth of Christ means to me. I try to spend time during lent reflecting on Jesus’ own journey towards his death. One could say that I have been on the same journey the last two years and my own lent has lasted more than 40 days. I think Lent is most commonly known for giving things up. In the past I have given up things like swearing, chocolate, soda, vending machines, pizza, sweets, beer, happy hours, and eating out. Except an improved diet I am not sure what if any benefit giving these items up has done for me. Sometimes I have been successful, but sometimes knowing you gave something up makes you crave it even more and I have cheated. Years ago my priest sad that Lent should be about removing the things in our lives that causes distance in our relationship with God. She also said maybe we should take this time to consider what we can do for others. If we do give up the afternoon candy bar from the vending machine, we should think about donating the money we would have spent on the candy bars to a charity. I have also taken things on during Lent including daily meditation or bible study. Sometimes I think these might strengthen my relationship with God more than giving things up.
I do have a point to why I am talking about religion and the virtues of lent. For the past three years I have been expending so much energy fighting cancer that I have not had as much time, emotional capacity or desire to focus on my spirituality as I would have liked. Not to mention that fact that I was royally pissed at God that I had cancer. The idea of giving up something for lent the last two years was laughable. The first Lent after diagnosis I was still in chemo and I could not get behind giving up anything I enjoyed or made me feel good considering that most the time I was miserable. Last year I was pretty sure I only had a few months to live and I basically said life is too short to make any more sacrifices than absolutely necessary.
On my way to Ash Wednesday service this year, my friend and driver asked me what I was giving up. I flippantly replied that I was giving up dying of cancer. I had not really thought about doing anything for Lent and this was just another case of me being a smart ass. However, I started thinking about that comment during the service and for several days later. Why shouldn’t I give up dying during lent? Having terminal cancer certainly has put a hardship on my relationship with God. Plus, I have found that having something to look forward to in the future helps me stay strong and focused and encourages me to strive to stay alive to do it.
So this year I officially gave up dying for Lent. Of course having the sense of humor I have, I made a number of jokes about this like: “I can’t die till after Lent or at least till Holy Week.” or “Dying on Good Friday has been done before and gives a lot of expectation of resurrection.” Another one is “Heaven help us if I am the daughter of God, the chosen one.”
Not sure if you noticed, but I tend to make more jokes about the things that I worry about or spend a lot of time thinking about. I try not to, but I do think a lot about dying these days and when that will occur. I was determined that it would not happen this spring, so giving it up for Lent seemed like a good thing to do. As I was sitting in church during the Easter Vigil service, I thought to myself “I did it – I am still alive!” “Wow, for the first time, I gave something up for Lent and never cheated or even had the desire to cheat”. I was so thankful that I was still alive as that service, that for the first time I felt like God answered my prayer about having more time. Then I thought, “What do I do now that Lent is over? I am certainly not read to die today so do I continue giving up dying. How long can that last?
I don’t think it is practical for me to say that I am giving up dying of cancer. What I have given up is being the person who is dying of cancer. I am the person who is living my life even though I have a terminal illness. Instead of worrying about when I am going to die, I am planning things I want to do in the upcoming months so I have things to look forward to.
These are the things I have so far:
May - Ovarian Cancer Survivor Retreat in Montana at Camp mak-a-dream.
May – visit from my sister and her family. Spending a lot of time with my nephew that lives in MO.
June – I have decided to participate in this year’s Relay for Life. Please consider joining my team or making a donation. Here is the link to my site: http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?px=15221509&pg=personal&fr_id=24972
July – Taking a cruise to the Bahamas with my oldest sister and husband, 3 of my adorable nephews and my parents.
I also want to set up one day a week that I meet up with a friend for a visit and grab a coffee, drink, food or just hang out. My current theory is the longer the list, the longer I have to stick around.
Does anyone else have any ideas of things to put on my list of things to live long enough to do?