Yesterday my husband and I were doing some gardening out on our back deck when my neighbor of 20 years came out to ask what we knew about the schedule for our upcoming roof replacement, a current project in our waterfront condominium community. We haven’t seen much of Perry, 78, lately, so it was nice to have an opportunity to chat with him.
When we finished discussing the community business, Perry complemented us on the flower beautification project we were in the midst of and shared that he hadn’t had the energy for gardening lately. He went on to tell us that he hadn’t been well, and that he had cancer of the stomach… a terminal diagnosis.
What do you say to someone you’ve known over a fence for 20 years who tells you they’ve been told they have 4 – 10 months to live? How do you communicate to them that you’re deeply sorry, that the news has shaken you, and that there is something you wish you could do to help turn things around?
How does the prospect of loss impact how you look at your own life?
Over the past year cancer has been hitting close to my home in far greater instances than ever. I lost a dear uncle and a beloved cat. My father was diagnosed with Stage 1 throat cancer and completed radiation treatments. Two other good friends have undergone or are in the process of chemotherapy for lymphoma. My naively optimistic view of my own longevity is beginning to shudder.
My neighbor sharing his diagnosis has invoked a wake-up call for me. How can I assume that my healthy life will continue through old age? What do I want my legacy to be? What do I need to do to push that legacy forward?
The commitment to your legacy
What’s come up for me in the last 24 hours is that I need to make a commitment to the legacy I wish to leave behind. And that means I need to commit time to it, to make it a greater priority than the other things I do to “entertain” myself outside of my day job. I know that it is doable because I’ve done it tonight. I’ve shared this with you.