Thursday, June 14, 2012

Would you?

Between the business of getting our house in order and having 5 children, it hasn't left a whole lot of in-between time for Steve and me. We steal moments throughout the day but our one-on-one time is really just before bed or in the car. Luckily, we drive a lot, so we get the chance to connect. Some of my favorite memories of Jeremy are from our long car rides: dreaming together, laughing, learning about each other....those moments are so special to me. I try to soak them up with Steve too. Sometimes we read together, sometimes we dream together about what our future will look like, what our hopes are for our children, where we want to be, etc.

We love to play 'what if' or 'would you rather' or make up random questions like 'what would you do if you won the lottery?' just to pass the time and for fun. So, it was no surprise at first when Steve randomly and innocently asked me "If you could know how and when you were going to die, would you?"

Without hesitation, I answered with a hearty YES.

But maybe I answered too quickly.

This is a loaded question for me. As a widow, my perspective of life and death has drastically changed. I no longer fear death, and I still long for Jeremy and ache for the day when I'll get to see him again. Not only that, but I long for a place void of hurt and pain, loss and death.

The months after Jeremy died, I remember wishing I could know when I would die, so I could know how long I had to bear through life and to give me something to look forward to. But, as every widow will come to hate and embrace at the same time, life goes on. You're still standing and breathing, and you're not mad about it anymore. Still, I wouldn't mind knowing when I will die: to prepare myself and the people I love, and to give a goodbye that I was robbed of with Jeremy.

I told Steve that the only thing that would make me regret finding out was if I learned my death would be slow and painful. But then again, how many people get to do this when they find out they have a terminal disease that they know will take them slowly? Would it change my every day life? Would I live differently? I'd like to think I try to live every day to the fullest, but even I would have to admit that it might change things. And maybe the point is to live life in a way that you wouldn't have to give a goodbye if you didn't have the chance to; that the people you love already know what you would say.

All week, this question has been stuck with me. Would I find out? I am one of those people that does not like to be left out of things...I don't like not knowing, no matter how hard the truth is. There was NO WAY I was going to wait to find out the sex of my children when they were born if I could find out and prepare sooner. That's just how I am. And even though sometimes I regret this piece of my personality, I don't have the ability to not want to know.

What I determined is that I'm glad that I can't know, and that it's not my decision to find out or not. Even though I answered quickly with seemingly convicted assurance, the more I think about this question, the less sure I am about my answer.

What about you? I anxious to know, especially in this arena of widows/widowers - if you could know how and when you were going to die, would you?


  1. This is a hard question for me. Honestly, I don't even have an answer. My late husband, Curt, died of cancer and we had 13 month to prepare. Our prayers transition from his healing to our adjustment that would come without him. I needed this time and still had grief and circumstances that followed kick the crap out of me for a very long time.

    I'd like to think that knowing is half the battle but ignorance can be bliss. I am in the I-don't-have-an-answer-for-you camp.


  2. I immediately thought have the chance to get my affairs in order, to spend as much time as possible with loved ones....but I'm already doing those things, so maybe it's "no". I guess the only real reason for me too say yes is to know when I will finally see Rodney again. But then I might waste the time I have left just waiting for that day... I guess I say no. I don't want to know.

  3. My immediate thought was "no". But then, I considered the ability to make the most out of what I had, or stop being so worried about accidents all the time. I'm glad I don't have the option of knowing. But if I did - I'd probably go with a yes.

  4. My husband told me on our first date that he had a congenital heart condition and that he was expected to die young... just not sure how young. We had seven glorious years together and he made it to 37 years old. He taught me to live each and every day as a precious gift... to not be distracted from the person, activity, meal, beautiful sight, etc. right in front of me. He taught me to be present in every moment and to appreciate every day like he did, with a peaceful recognition that tomorrow might never come. He's been gone 17 months and I am proud that I continue to live these valuable lessons every day. The people in my life know that I love them and how much I appreciate them. I laugh loudly and stop to smell the roses. I try to stay focused on what really matters in my life and honor the moment that I am in, without jumping ahead to another.

    So, having taken the long walk through the woods to answer the question (sorry)... no, I don't think I would want to know. My husband taught me to find the comfortable balance between living all about the present and also taking care for a future, you know, just in case. I feel like the knowledge (if I were able to have it) would take some of the joy from the days I do have left... like the ticking timeclock on a game show. I think I can live with urgency and presence AND hope for the future all at once… a combo platter I can only enjoy with blissful ignorance.

    Interesting question… thank you for asking!

  5. I'm a 'no'.

    Dave was given 3 months to live and made it to 6 months. Watching him die was awful. Even if he didn't have to endure chemo, and the cancer didn't take the toll on his body that it did, it still would have been awful.
    Waiting to die...

    We can all live life with the awareness, and full realization that we are indeed going to die, without knowing the expiration date.

    Today is 2 years for me. :(

    1. Valerie,
      I'm in the same boat as you, "no" I don't need to know. Doug was given 6-8 months, he was only here for 2 months, treatment was not an option, so he went quickly, at home; hardest thing I have ever done was to care for him and be there at the end.

      Sorry this is 2 year date for you, I'm 2 1/2 years out. Hope you are doing ok, isn't it amazing that time keeps going on? It seems like yesterday, and yet seems like forever at the same time.

    2. Valerie,
      I'm sorry that this day is what it is for you. It sucks.
      But I'm glad that you found this site. Because now you are in the thoughts and prayers of many, many wonderful people.

  6. I would have to say no. I feel like I'm living my life with no regrets and saying what needs to be said to those who need to hear it. My husband battled cancer for almost a year. His biggest fear was people pitying him or changing the way they treated him, so he didn't want anyone to know he was sick. I think I'd probably feel the same way. I don't want their pity now and I wouldn't want it if I were dying. I wouldn't want people to change the way they treated me just because my time was short.

    And Valerie, I hope today wasn't too tough for you. The anniversaries are rough, but I always feel like the anticipation leading up to it is even worse.