Monday, November 9, 2015

THE BRAVE, THE DETERMINED AND THE STRONG

I am tired of losing friends and family to illnesses.  It seems that when they leave this earth it is always much to soon.  It doesn't really matter how old they are when they pass from here, it is still too soon.  The last time I saw my Grandfather, I knew it would be the last time I would see him.  He and my grandmother were leaving to visit my aunt in Alabama.  Even though deep inside I knew that I would not see him again, when my mother knocked on my door late one night and told me that he had died, I was thrown into a state of shock and terrible grief.  I have come to believe that the night he died was the night I started a long deep slip into depression that stays with me still.

I have written about Alesia in this blog before.  She died of heart failure when she was just fourteen.  I had known her since she was born as I had worked with and played ball with her dad her whole life.  She had just been declared healthy and had been told that she could live a normal life when her life suddenly ended without warning one evening.  Other teens that I have known have had their lives taken much too early.  Their parents are devastated and even though the grief is strong and will stay with them always, those parents seem to find strength to get up everyday and live as much of a life as they can carrying that pain inside of them every minute of everyday.

I am tired of losing people to heart disease, mental disease, respiratory disease and a host of other sicknesses.  The one disease that I really am tired of though is cancer.  There are so many different kinds of cancer and none seem to have a cure.  Cancer is to me the cruelest of the killers.

There is one thing I have noticed of all the people I knew who died of cancer.  Cancer patients always seem to dig deep and face it with strength and bravery.  I visited my Uncle Melvin in the hospital a couple of weeks before cancer took him from us.  Thinking back he was probably the first person who I was close to that I knew was dying from cancer.  I walked in and he smiled at me.  He held my hand and it seemed that he was comforting me and I needed to be comforted.  He was ready, he was prepared.  No he did not want to leave, but at this point he had come to accept it and was facing it with incredible strength.  None of us knows what was going on inside his mind, but on the outside he was facing the prospect of his life ending and letting all of us know it was okay.

I have written about Rachel here as well.  Rachel was an incredible person.  She had a brain tumor when she was very small and it seemed that she had beat it.  Then one Christmas, the symptoms began to show up again when she had grown into a beautiful young lady.  Rachel kept going as long as she could.  She never gave up.  Always had a warm smile on her face even though she could feel herself slowly slipping away.  She never stopped living her life until that New Years Eve when her life passed from this one to the next one.  She was an inspiration to me and to many others.  I think I can safely say that Rachel will live on in memories and stories that will be passed down from generation to generation.

I had that conversation with my Uncle Dan after he was diagnosed with cancer and it became clear that his cancer would not be slowed or healed.  We talked about "after he was gone" and how he will cease to exist.  I knew that life goes past this life.  Not only with the spirit leaving his body but his life would continue in the memories of those that knew him.  Stories are relayed of Dan and his brothers, Melvin and Buster. who have also passed and through those tales they continue to live on.  Dan faced his cancer with that strength that comes from deep down inside.  He lived his life until he could not anymore.  We went and did things knowing in our hearts that it would be the last time for doing such things.  He went to the theatre one last time and even though he told me it felt sad to be there, he enjoyed it.  He was in his element that night even if it would be the last time.

I have witnessed others who have succumbed to cancer who were co-workers of mine.  Jim, Lera, Paul,  all were younger than me when they passed.  But they not only faced the disease with strength and bravery, but they fought it as well as they could.

Now I look around and see friends that are fighting the fight against cancer.  My cousins have just learned that their step father has a fast growing brain tumor that is untreatable and his time is very limited.  From what my cousins tell though, he is another brave and strong man who is taking it in stride and will live life until he can't anymore.

My brother had bladder cancer and it looks as though he has fought it off successfully.  My wife had uterus cancer and they were able to operate on her and so far it has not returned, but she faced that surgery with strength and bravery.  My cousin Ellen and my Uncle Jack have faced cancer and defeated it with strength and determination.  So cancer is not a death notice by far.  They are making progress it seems.  But without the determination of those who have the disease, we wouldn't stand a chance.  You can not beat cancer unless you fight it with everything you got.

Probably one of the strongest and bravest people I have ever known with cancer is a lady who attends Barb's church.  Yvonne has had cancer as long as I have known her it seems.  She has had tremendous faith that has given her the strength to keep fighting and fighting with a good attitude.  Of course I don't know what goes on inside her head as she continues her fight, but continue to fight she does.  She always has time to look out for problems others are having and offering support and strength to them.  My wife is having heart problems that seem to get worse everytime she sees a doctor and Yvonne always has a word of encouragement.  Yvonne is as good as an example of what faith will do for us when faced with difficult times.  I am so thankful I have the privileged knowing her.

Now my sister has cancer.  I was lucky enough to be able to help take care of her for a few months before she went home to Georgia.  From the time it became clear that this was not going to be an easy cancer to beat, my sister has been determined to fight it, and she has.  Her faith never waivers.  She keeps a good outlook and does what she has to do to fight it.  She shows much the same strength, determination and bravery that Yvonne has shown all these years.  To me it is incredible.  I don't think I could have the strength or determination that Yvonne and Carol have.  I am pretty sure I wouldn't.

All of these people have shown what it is to be strong and brave.  They have set an example for others who are ill or feel lost in life.  They have shown what it means to live.  Rachel, Alesia, My uncles, my Aunt June and my sister and Yvonne.   I am thankful to know these people who have set an example of what it is to live life to it's fullest.

One day we will find out how to beat cancer.  The sooner the better.

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