Confronting mortality in the New Year
This New Years Eve was shrouded in a sadness and confrontation with mortality. Two of my close friends are dealing with the reality of parents who have recently been diagnosed with brain tumours. Glioblastoma Multiformans otherwise known as GBM. The most aggressive kind. One friend is innocently hopeful, she has fortunately never been in such close proximity to the medical world before. The other is full of dread. She is a doctor and has seen many of these patients suffer a protracted death and now faces this with her own mother. Is ignorance bliss?
Death is always there in the background. However, when diagnoses are cemented and symptoms start to emerge, that unfamiliar face of reality stares us down with an icy glare, reminding us that there is no inherent logic or meaning.
This New Years Eve my resolutions were briskly brushed aside for those bigger questions which arise at times like these. The existential questions which can easily remain below the surface whilst our lives are lived in a way that can be so taken for granted. What is the purpose? Where is meaning and what creates the most meaning in my life? I feel a sense of shame and anger when I reflect on all those wasted moments of life indulging in concerns and dissatisfactions that are so detached from the beauty and miracle that is life lived from moment to moment. My friend recounts the preciousness of her father blowing a kiss from his hollow cheeks in the hospital bed before retreating back into unconsciousness and delirium.
A woman I meet at a New Years BBQ initiates a conversation with the question: "What do you dedicate your life to?" I am taken by surprise. It jolts me pleasantly from my reflex response which would be: I am training in psychiatry. I turn to her and quite smoothly respond: "I dedicate my life to my family, friends and making meaningful connections with other human beings". In light of this New Year's sombre tone this dedication seems to be so deeply true of what gives my life meaning.
Wishing everyone health and appreciation of all the precious moments we share.