Friday, October 9, 2009

Is Life too Short?

As a reporter, I occasionally have to write a story about a child with cancer. This is always a bad experience. As a parent I can completely identify with the suffering that families go through in these situations, and I often feel awkward or intrusive when I try to talk to them.

I'm about to sit down and write a profile about a little girl named Megan, who has a brain tumor. Like my friend Ian Thomas, who died a few years ago from the same affliction, Megan went to the doctor numerous times with headaches, and it wasn't until it was way too late that someone finally diagnosed her properly.

Because of Megan's story, and Ian's story, and so many other sad stories I've heard, I sort of internally freak out every time my son shows the slightest trace of illness. He went to the hospital recently for repeated nausea. I basically demanded blood tests, urinalisis, the whole nine yards, and I could tell the doctor really didn't think any of that was necessary. But Medicaid pays those bills, so the doctor ran the tests and we learned that Connor was fine (at least, there isn't anything serious wrong with him). I felt like a bit of a jerk for demanding things of the doctors, but I didn't care. I wasn't going to let my son end up like my friend Ian - not if I could help it.

I interviewed Megan's best friend's mother this morning. She's a Christian who is now struggling to understand why a sweet little girl must suffer while so many wicked people live long lives. She is becoming frustrated with the platitudes she hears from people in her faith community - that "everything happens for a reason," or that "some good will come out of this."

I can't pretend to even begin to address those sorts of questions. But I do know that some good has come out of Megan's situation, at least in my life: it's made me think about what's important and what isn't. So often, we get bent out of shape over life's tiny little dramas. They often seem like such a big deal in the heat of our gut reactions, when at the end of the day, they mean nothing compared to what's really important.

And what's really important is love. I don't care how unhip, naive, or touchy-feely that makes me sound. It really is all that matters. My family and the love we have for each other is the most important thing in my life. I wrote my son and mother letters this morning so they'd know how much I love, appreciate and admire them. I don't want to wait until I am on my deathbed to say those things. I've also been working hard to make sure my friends know that they're loved and appreciated. But despite the fact that nice words and sincere thoughts do matter and are appreciated, the most important thing I can do is live my life every day showing them how much they all matter to me through my actions.

"Life is too short" is a common phrase we use when we decide not to worry about the small stuff. And maybe it is. For some people, it definitely is. But I don't think it's so much that life is too short - it's that we don't use the time we have, don't think about what a precious gift it is. Every second counts. My life is ticking away. So is yours. What are we going to do with it?

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