I had a 40-Year old in my office today who I diagnosed with heart disease fairly recently. He is 5 years my junior and is no higher risk for heart disease than I am. In discussing his diagnosis, he commented to me that the hardest thing for him was to think about his young son living without a father. It is hard not to be affected by that kind of thing.
For some reason I have been aware of death more recently. I hear about earthquakes in China and cyclones in Myanmar and it strikes me that each of the myriad of dead are individuals just like me. Each one is a consciousness, a person with family and friends, a vital body that is now forever quieted.
This is not an obsessive thought, but neither is it one that I am not shunning. It does good to think about this kind of thing from time to time. It is not morbid. It is reality.
We all tend to live our lives as if we are the exception to the rule. How often do we drive by cemeteries without contemplating that our time here is short? How many opportunities to do good do we miss, thinking that we will have other chances in the future? How many relationships are put on hold so that we can accomplish things that have little real importance? How much self-indulgence to we throw ourselves at to escape the hard facts about life?
Studies have recently shown that people who have a history of cancer do not necessarily lead any more healthy of a lifestyle than those who don't. We doctors don't live healthier lives than our patients. Knowledge does not equal change. Experience does not equal wisdom. Our memories are short. Denial and escape are two of the most dominant forces in the human psyche. We are Human, all too human.
That is why I don't shy away from moments like this. It is good see life as it really is. It is good to have reality tap you on the shoulder. It is good to be reminded to live today for today. Don't dwell too much on tomorrow. Don't grieve too much for yesterday. Today is what we have in front of us and is our opportunity to really live. Chances are very good that soon the blanket of escape and denial will once more shroud my consciousness, so while I am so reminded, I must Carpe Diem.