Not to overstate the obvious, but let’s be real… we’re blessed with whatever time we are given on God’s Green Earth. I’ve said before (and will likely say countless more times) we’re not guaranteed tomorrow.
Since my ALS diagnosis 16 months ago, I’ve embraced that belief with all my being. Of note, it should NOT require a terminal illness diagnosis for us to understand that we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. But I’ll be the first to admit, it took that unfortunate event for me to have some real clarity of the concept.
Look, I get it. As we go about our jam-packed days, we tend to say we’ll get to things later, maybe tomorrow. We’ll take that trip. We’ll plant that tree. We’ll visit that friend. We’ll get to it.
When the reality of someone not getting a tomorrow slaps you across the face like you mentioned Will Smith’s wife, it’s still a shock. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
And now I’m incredibly pissed. At the world, at disease, but mostly at myself. I KNEW better. I’ve been preaching about it for months. Practice what you preach, hypocrite.
I failed to listen to my own advice… and it cost me.
Let me tell you about Ed. Ed was a good dude. Nah, he was more than that. He was a larger-than-life figure whose very presence would bring joy into a room, if not with his booming voice, then with his transcendent smile. He was a selfless giver. He was a tireless family man. His positive attitude could make me, despite all my raving positivity, look like a Debbie Downer in comparison (sorry, to any Debbie’s out there…) 🙂
A few months ago, Ed was diagnosed with cancer. The outlook didn’t sound good at the time, but his (public) demeanor did not change. He said he would battle this. He said it would be ok. I took solace in his strength.
We all have our battles, some more pressing than others. And we all have our excuses, some more valid than others.
I’ve talked extensively about my battles. Yes, I’m terminally ill. Yes, ALS is destroying my body and wreaking havoc in my life. Yes, for a lack of more eloquent wording, this sucks bigly. Now, about my excuses. Well, I have none. At least no valid ones.
I heard that Ed passed away this week. I was shocked, as I didn’t think his situation had become that bad. I was saddened, as I thought of his wife and kids and friends that were now undoubtedly dealing with a huge hole in their lives. And I was pissed… beyond pissed, mostly at myself. I got all wrapped up in my own battles, my own challenges, my own struggles, and I failed to listen to my own advice.
And in the process, I missed an opportunity to reach out and connect with someone who was also struggling, but who was determined to battle. I missed an opportunity to tell someone what an awesome person they were. I missed an opportunity to simply say goodbye.
Because Ed doesn’t have a tomorrow, at least here on this Earth, those opportunities have now passed me by. That will forever be my loss.
The only consolation I have is that as a strong, faith-filled Christian man, who acted out his beliefs and convictions on an everyday basis, Ed has Eternal Life. I’ll inevitably get there as well – though I have to be honest, I do hope I can put that off for as long as possible.
Until then, while I am still so incredibly blessed to be alive and celebrating each day, I hope to learn from my mistake. I hope to do better. I hope to be better.
I need to continue to tell people what I need them to know, while I can. I need to make the effort to connect with people and share moments together, while I can. I need to fully live my life based on the knowledge that we are not guaranteed tomorrow, while I can.
As I’ve said before, I’m not one to tell others how to live their lives (but I guess I’m going to do so yet again, sue me) 🙂 but I would implore you, do yourself a favor.
Take that trip. Plant that tree. Visit that friend. Don’t fail your loved ones, don’t fail yourself. Make sure people know how you feel. Not tomorrow, today. While you can.
I’m now 16 months into my ALS journey. I fully understand how my journey is expected to end, I just don’t know when. But I do know this… no one is getting out of here alive.