It’s inevitable. The last time you will ever speak with a friend, mother, father or a loved one. The last time you hear a word of advice, the last I love you, your last hug. Death is the final period at the end of the sentence that sometimes arrives as an exclamation mark.
“I’m sorry, you have six months, maybe a year,” the doctor says helplessly. And in a blink of an eye everyone’s life changes. There is no taking those words back. No erasing what you just learned. “Maybe he’s wrong,” we hope, “maybe it’s longer,” we pray, but the reality of the last word, the last hug, the last moment has materialized. We all know it will happen someday; someday out on the future maybe 20 years from now. But sometimes it gets thrown at us sooner. It’s no longer an unknown sometime in the future. You have a time frame.
The reality is that at 50 Something we may begin to experience events such as these more frequently. We may learn of a friend or a relative diagnosed with terminal cancer, Alzheimer’s disease or another incurable condition.
Several years before my mother passed away, even before she became ill, I recognized the inevitability of their being a last word sooner rather than later. I made a decision to use our remaining time to say and share all the feelings (although I filtered out any unnecessary discussion would cause her pain), ask all the questions, and hear all the stories.
I did not want to have any “I should haves.” In the end I was closer with her than I had been throughout my adult life. I know she was happier during that period and I had closure with no regrets when she passed away two years ago.
Learning a friend or a loved one has a terminal condition evokes a range of overwhelming feelings but it’s important not to lose sight that this is also an opportunity for closeness at an inescapable time of life. Many people miss that opportunity with friends and loved ones that pass away suddenly from a tragic accident, heart attack, or other unexpected event. We always hear someone wish they had more time because there is so much I wanted to say. A terminal disease is overwhelming at best for all involved, but also an opportunity for closure and to be there for your loved one. Don’t let that time slip through your fingers.