The Art of Living

I visited my friend today, the one who is dealing with end stage cancer, and it was a nice visit. The four of us were there — the four who have formed a small family and who celebrate holidays together — so it was fitting we all got together for this informal celebration of life.

None of us were morbid or melancholic in any way — not the three of us (including her husband) whose mates have died, and not our lovely friend who is facing her final months. We simply visited as we normally do while nibbling on nutritious snacks. The talk revolved around food as it often does among the four of us, perhaps because our food backgrounds are completely different; two of us are native-born Americans and two are from widely different Asian countries.

The food and the talk of food seemed to fit the mood we established of living for today without any thought of what tomorrow might bring, because what is more life affirming that food? Not only does it nourish our bodies and spirits, it unites us with our heritage, and it brings us together in a peaceful and sharing manner.

I am truly glad we had such a pleasant visit. In a side chat, the other widow and I mentioned how sorry we were for our friend’s trouble, how sad we were for ourselves, and that we didn’t really want to think about “it.” So we didn’t.

I don’t know if I could have endured a tearful time. After all, she is still here, still living each day the fullest she can. And isn’t that all any of us can do? Some of us might know our expiration date, at least to the extent of a doctor’s guess, but no one truly knows what tomorrow might bring. So we live each day with an almost careless lack of concern. And isn’t that just as important when it comes to an end, whether our own or a loved one’s?

After Jeff died, I often mentioned in my blogs about his “time of dying” or his “dying years,” but those are misnomers. Even when a person is dying, he is living, even if he’s in too much pain to care.

I remember crying to the hospice social worker who would come and check on us, that he hadn’t had much of a life, which seemed to make his death all that much more tragic, but she reminded me that whatever one has to deal with — disregard from parents, lack of financial success, ill health, whatever — it is still life.

And I remind myself of that now. However long I have with my friend, it will be about enjoying the time together, because this is part of living. Maybe it’s even the art of living.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

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