37 seconds

Last night at Relay for Life I was overwhelmed with people’s attitudes towards life and disease and death. So many times throughout the day I heard people use the phrase, “lost the battle” and “lose my mother” and other such phrases. I don’t understand that word in this context.

A few years ago my aunt died from breast cancer. She was buried on my birthday. I do still have both my parents but I do feel I can be somewhat empathetic towards these peoples situations. It wasn’t easy at all when my aunt died. In my lifetime I have watched four people I have been very close to pass on. But I am not mad or angry at the diseases or illnesses that brought them to the end.

People get so pissed off at death. They feel they have been cheated. Seriously it is like being upset at losing the semi-final game as a team in the Final Four, or being disappointed getting the bronze medal in the olympics. Those people should just be happy with knowing how far they have made it.

Lets get grounded here people. Look at our bodies. We’re an amazing system of fleshy and hard and gooey structures that somehow come together to produce a living, breathing, conscious being. If we tried to recreate some such thing with our hands it would fall apart in less than a minute. But we evolved to be beings with lifespans of about 30 years. Then with education and medicine and some really brilliant people, we have found out how to extend that another 50 years. I mean, congratulations to the creator who made us last that long and then I think we all deserve a pat on the back for extending that to a whopping 80 years!

Mahoney: Now we wait.
Magorium: No. We Breathe. We Pulse. We Regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. Thirty-seven seconds, well used, is a lifetime.

Imagine even living for a single minute, or an hour even. Imagine it. You just all of the sudden wake up in an adult body and you see and hear and smell and hear and taste and feel and believe and live! Everything goes on around you and you can’t believe it. It is amazing. You can’t understand it, just one minute earlier you ceased to exist and yet all of the sudden you are here as this conscious being. Imagine how amazing that would be! And crazy too, I mean we just come to a form and exist and we are here, alive.

But you see, that is exactly what happens to us. And yet we complain about how short it is? Are you all mad?!

I challenge one of you, any one of you who is reading this to explain to me how life exists. I think I know a pretty good amount about the human body considering my entire major is about that. But while my professors have explained individual systems and chemicals and biomolecules in the body, not one can explain that spark that ignites us, that keeps us awake.

Death is not a disease. Yes, cancer is. And I am not asking you to accept cancer, to be willing to die. But you don’t lose to cancer. You don’t lose to death. You just accept that the ride is over and say goodbye. And when a loved one leaves us, I do not say to not be sad. That is only acknowledging that we will miss them, just as we will miss a friend who moves away. But accept it, embrace the impracticality of life in the first place, and accept that death is the norm. Life is the anomaly.

It seems we have forgotten that somewhere along the way. When my coach told me a few years ago about his wife being pregnant, he was shocked to see that I was the most excited person he had told. People get less worked up about a new life being admitted into our world than when one leaves. A new life takes nine months to become whereas death only takes a second. I challenge a parent to look at their newborn with total ridiculous confusion, excitement, and wonder, to be amazed that they helped produce this new life. And I challenge a parent who has buried one of their own to be more content with that then the birth in the first place, to understand the craziness of life. I understand sadness, that is only right. But I don’t want them to feel cheated by having lost a child. I want them to only have feel gifted with that birth of their child in the first place.

In November of my junior year in high school I faced a very troubling situation. I walked into an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor for what I thought was a normal check-up. But my mom suspected that the tumorous bumps on my throat were more serious than I suspected them to be. But when the doctor said there was a possibility they be lymphoma, instantly fear struck me. My mom burst into tears but was comforted when the doctor informed us that it was unlikely since they had stopped growing for the last few weeks. But there was no comforting me at the time. I just heard that I may have cancer, no matter what the probability, a chance was frightening enough.

The surgery to remove and test the severely swollen lymph nodes was scheduled for a couple weeks later. I remember going to a cross country meet to support my teammates, being unable to race due to a muscular ailment. I remember telling them in a joking way, trying to cover up how scared I truly was that I may have lymphoma. They didn’t take it lightly for good reason and it was good to have their support. It felt like all I could do was tell my friends and let them know. I felt powerless, a million thoughts flying through my head all at once.

But it didn’t take long for my attitude to change. I understood I was not being given a raw deal, not being cheated. I had been given sixteen years already and I was going to enjoy whatever rest of it I would be given, whether I was ill or not, whether my time be six months or another 100 years.

I love raising money for research and fighting for life. But you cannot prevent death. It is inevitable and if we somehow can artificially extend it physically, we will lose it spiritually. Cancer is not a terrible disease. It is a change, just another of the many ways that we move on. And you don’t lose somebody to that disease. Please read my words: your family and friends die because they lived. You lose them to life.

6 thoughts on “37 seconds”

  1. Grayson, I so vividly remember that time when they thought your Mom and the doctor thought it might possibly be lymphoma. I was so scared…more than I ever let on because I know what a scourge that particular blood cancer can be. Above all else, I was overjoyed when it turned out not to be the case. Then, there was Matt, diagnosed with a nasty leukemia in his sophomore year who I fundraised in honor of for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society…he is a now a healthy, amazing student at Stanford, the picture of health…the result of what research dollars can do. Two excellent outcomes, indeed.

    Now, I have to ask you…how did you get to be so wise at such an early age? I agree with what you say whole heartedly about death and the reality of life.

    Now, I have another conundrum for you to toss about…it is one that always makes me scratch my head at the comments people often make. When a young person dies, the world just goes crazy that they died too you and how unfair it is that they never had a chance to live…and it IS terribly sad; but when an old person dies…it seems to be okay because they had the chance to live a long life and did lots of things. So, is the older person’s life less valuable at death than the young person??? No…of course not. Is it like an old purse in which one gathers all of the treasures one gets in life…is it more valuable instead? No…death is death…it is a part of life as you so eloquently write…no escaping it.

    Meanwhile, I still raise funds for LLS and ACS, too. I am grateful for what you are doing to help fund the cures…you ARE making a difference. Regards to your dear Mom and Dad. I miss them.

    1. To be honest I have never thought about it but it does seem true that no death should be weighed more heavily than another. I know personally if I were to kick the bucket now versus 80 years from now I would hope everyone react the same.

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