Dying to Live
I AM DYING. Actually, we are all dying. Each day we live, we get a little closer to death. Tom may think he is going to die tomorrow from a life threatening disease, and live for years. Chuck may think he has another forty years ahead, and die tragically tomorrow.
The only thing we do know for sure is that we all will die at some time in the future. None of us knows the exact day or hour that we will die. Since we do not know our futures…if the daily inconveniences of our bodies will cause us to die…or if our seemingly healthy bodies will suddenly die of cancer…we must choose how we will react to life each day.
With all life’s problems, I never thought I could be happy, until I met George and Ed, who were…dying to live.
Subconscious Reactions Affect Life
TINA ALWAYS THOUGHT that she was going to die soon. Every illness that went around, she was sure she had. Every illness she did have, she was sure would be fatal. Every illness someone she knew had, she was sure would be fatal.
Tina lived in fear for herself and all around her. If John left Tina’s house in a car and she later heard a siren, she was sure John had been killed in a car crash. Each siren brought new terror to her life. She had to tell someone, everyone, about her fears.
As time went on, Tina’s fears became worse. She was so sure that something bad was happening to someone she loved that she would talk as though the person had actually died when she heard a siren.
Tina lived in misery. Television would compound her worries. Each story she heard on the news became a personal tragedy to her. She reacted as though a good friend had died with each shooting, as though she knew them well and was grieving the loss. Then, she projected the incident onto others around her as though they needed to fear the same type of tragedy happening to them.
Tina could never think about any of the good things happening in the world. When Mary had a baby, she worried about it getting pneumonia or the flu and dying. If a Mike flew to a foreign county, she was sure that terrorists would kill him. As each visitor left her side, she would try to instill her fears upon them by warning them to be careful of a list of things that could happen to them.
Tina was missing any joy in life. She could not have joy herself because there could always be problems. No one around her was to speak of any joy, as he never knew if the next tragedy would be his.
How Your Views Affect Others
I GREW UP hearing all of those tragic stories. Each time something good would happen, I would hear a story of how the good event could turn to tragedy. I felt guilty if I felt any joy because I would remember someone else who did not have it so lucky.
I was not to feel any joy, only pity for others who were less fortunate than I was. I suffered from many physical ailments, such as asthma, stomach and back problems. Each problem would make my life not worth living. My view of life was becoming like Tina’s.
Since I had heard all of the bad stories about what could happen for each incident in my life, I believed them. I lived in fear for my life and the lives of those around me. If there was any potential that another lived in pain, I felt it. I could literally feel pain throughout my body where another might be feeling real pain from their illnesses.
Searching for Joy
I WOULD LONG to experience the fun times I saw others around me living. I could not experience the joy of others, only their pain. I was too sympathetic towards the sufferings of others to allow myself any joy. If I felt joy, I was not being compassionate.
For years, I suffered for others, along with suffering for myself. Tears still come to my eyes when I pray for the lives of those around me.
However, a few years ago, George taught me how to live. I had to call George frequently for work. He always sounded extremely joyful. No matter what was happening with his business, he always sounded like today was his best day. His company was on one of my construction projects that underwent many changes. Each change brought additional work to redo what had already been done and more work pricing the new change. Long hours were required to keep up with all of the changes.
Everyone else I would call would grumble at the unending changes. George always sounded cheerful, as though the change was a good thing. Finally, one day, I asked George how on earth he could do it. How could he stay so happy when everything around us seemed to go wrong?
He told me it was his choice. He quickly changed his voice to angry and asked, “Would you rather have me talk to you like this?” Then, he laughed. He could have gotten angry about each call, but if he let it bother him, he would live his life angry or miserable instead of happy. He chose to be happy.
When I would call, George would tell me of something fun he was doing. He would say, “I’ll just get that done before my ski trip tomorrow or after I get back from boating tomorrow. He would always find a way to stick a few hours of fun into his busy work life, and then focus on those fun times rather than focusing on what was wrong with work.
“He must have a great life,” I thought. “Good thing he doesn’t have to deal with all of the problems I have.” I was raising four children alone while working long hours to support us. I felt I had no time for fun. I thought my life must be so much worse than his that I could never attain his attitude.
A few years later, my co-worker, Bob, filled me in on the rest of George’s story. I told Bob that I could not understand how George was always happy, and thought maybe he did not work as hard as we do or have things as bad. Bob also knew George. However, Bob knew the rest of the story.
George’s young daughter, Suzie, had cancer. Suzie suffered each day as her pain got worse, and then better, and then worse again, until she finally died. Suzie suffered with cancer for five years before she finally died. She had been suffering the entire time George and I had worked together.
Yet, George was the friendliest man I had ever met. He would make you feel good just by talking to him. How could he have lived through such tragedy and never have sounded like he had any pain? Was this man really selfish, cold, and cruel not to care about Suzie and her pain?
Bob assured me that was not the case. George saw Suzie wasting away in fear and pain, and knew he had to do something about it. He knew he had to find a way to get her to think happy thoughts. He knew he had to be happy and strong for her sake. He could see that any sadness inside him only made her worse.
One day George made a conscious decision never to allow the bad thoughts to rule his life, for Suzie’s sake. George would push out any bad thoughts and try to replace them with good thoughts. He would do some fun things so he would have happy stories to tell her. He based his whole life on trying to bring joy into the lives of others by finding joy and sharing it.
Whatever Suzie could not do, George would do and share with her, to try to make her feel as though she had been there. All of the fun activities he fit into his life quickly, so he could return to her with a new story. His unending search for joy in life was not selfish; it was to share.
Choices We Make
I THOUGHT I was showing compassion in my life by feeling sad for others. I did care for others, but I now knew that my inner sadness was ruining my life and the lives of those around me. By sharing sad stories, I was sharing death. By living in my problems rather than finding good in life, I was making my life and the lives of others around me miserable.
Maybe I did have to suffer with physical ailments, but, I could choose to find other things in life to share. I did not need to make the lives of others more miserable by sharing my pain. I could choose to make others happy by finding good to share with them.
A FEW YEARS after I heard George and Suzie’s story, I met Ed, a man with cancer. Ed also seemed always to be happy. He was given only a few months to live, as his type of cancer was always fatal.
The entire church was praying for Ed. We felt his pain, but more than that, we experienced his joy. If we did not inquire about his cancer, Ed would never discuss it. Those who did not know Ed would never have known he had cancer. Those of us who did know him could see his physical body deteriorating, but his mind not changing from the focus on the important things in life. He refused to let the cancer rule his life when there were so many other things that needed his attention, with possibly little time left.
We would hear stories about Ed cheering up the nurses who would attend him at his cancer treatments. The nurses would hate to give Ed the chemotherapy as they knew it would make him sick. Yet, he always retained a happy attitude. Ed would cheer them up, throw up, and cheer them up again.
When Ed’s cancer got so bad that life seemed to be over for him soon, the nurses would cry, as they had grown so fond of him. Yet, he remained filled with joy. Ed would tell the nurses not to worry about him, as he knew he would only be going to a better place. He knew Jesus died so he could go to heaven. In heaven, he would have a perfect life and body, with no cancer.
He did not fear his own death, he only feared the death of others he cared about who did not know Jesus and would not end up in heaven. To him, that was the only thing that mattered, that he would show Jesus’ love to all others so they too could enjoy heaven with him when they died.
The doctors gave up all hope and left him to die. Ed developed a spot in his arm that the doctors ignored because they believed he would die soon. However, the church continued to pray. Even those unfamiliar with praying began to pray for this man, as they did not want to lose his loving kindness in their lives.
When the tumors should have grown to the point of killing him, they began to shrink. Ed began to regain his health. Now, his biggest problem became the tumor in his arm which one doctor chose to ignore. Since it had been ignored when small, it had now grown so that it needed to be surgically removed.
The doctor had relied on human understanding rather than the power of God. We sometimes assume we know what will happen in life based on previous experiences. However, God works differently. Human experiences are not always the same. Ed lived to share with others the hope of a good future by knowing Jesus, until the ignored spot in his arm took his life.
Life, even with cancer, was not bad when you had a good message to share. Sharing joy with others changed lives that could have been miserable into lives of joy.
Living for Life
I CHOSE ALSO to change to live for the good things in life. It was not easy for me to change, since I had learned since birth to look for the negative possibilities in all life situations. It would take real determination now to focus on life and to spread joy rather than seeing the problems with life, especially when my physical ailments acted up.
However, I had learned that other things in life were more important than my ailments. I no longer wanted anyone to feel any pity for me when I was ill. I wanted them to look instead on what they could be doing for the good of themselves and for others .
For each person, there is a way to make life the best it can be. Finding ways to spread joy will remove your own gloom, and allow you to feel the joy.
Each one of us does not know if today or tomorrow will be our last. Each one of us has a choice to make, whether we are going to make each day the best it can be for others and for ourselves or if we are going to spread pain and suffering.
I now choose to focus on and to spread the joy.
Others Choosing Joy
CAN YOU THINK of people who have had their lives greatly altered by tragedy? Can you think of the different ways those involved have chosen to live after the tragedy, and how it has affected their own lives and the lives of others?
Angie’s life should have ended in misery. On her way home from work, a truck ran a stop sign, smashing her car. Angie lost almost all use of her body. After years of caring for Angie and their four small children, Angie’s husband, Brian finally gave up and divorced her. She was now alone and crippled, unable even to talk so others could understand her. I thought her life would end a tragedy, until I saw her about ten years later.
Angie lived in a handicapped apartment with visiting aides who would help her in and out of her motorized wheelchair. Angie’s only movements were a slight tilt of her head and one finger. With this small amount of mobility, Angie was able to maneuver her wheelchair around the city and to write books on a touchpad of a special computer. Angie did not live in the sadness over what she had lost. She now focused on what she could make of each day.
Sure, Angie still had big problems. If road-workers and construction crews did not carefully construct and maintain the curb cuts in the sidewalks and roads, she could easily tip her wheelchair and fall into the busy street, unable then to move to get back into her chair or out of the street. However, that did not stop her from going. She lived life to the fullest that was possible for her condition.
WHAT CONDITION AFFECTS your life today? How will you let it affect you or others? Will you dwell on what is wrong, and make yourself and others miserable, or will you try to look for joy in life? Will you help yourself and others with what you have learned?
Life is not fair. Life never has been fair and never will be fair.
Some others will always have more than we have, while some others will always have less. Some will have sickness, while others have health. Circumstances may not change for the better, but our attitudes and actions always can.
Responding with Joy
I FOUND IT difficult to change my responses to joy after living in a world of complaints for so long. What changed my life the most was reading about the life of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible.
Jesus was tortured and killed, but continued to feel and show love until the very end, and beyond. Others love Him 2000 years later due to His ability to live in love. Reading His stories over many times has helped me to learn how to respond with joy.
Jesus also sent us His Holy Spirit to live inside us and help us with our daily lives. Trying to share His love has helped to change my life. Life can be a struggle, but knowing the stories of George, Ed, Angie, and Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, I am now…dying to live.
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