Jim Chastain and I sat across the table from one another at Metro Wine Bar and Grill sharing lunch last week. Jim is a young man in his 40’s who has been told his cancer is terminal. His physicians tell him he has months, not years.
We talked about his dying like some people talk about the weather. We didn’t dwell on it, but we both acknowledged it and then intentionally turned our attention to the day at hand.
All of us live, love, hurt, change, age, and die. Knowing that however doesn’t mean we have to like it and I can assure you, Jim Chastain is not at all crazy about the idea of dying before the year comes to a close.
He is an attorney with a promising career, a writer, a poet, a man with a great group of close friends, a husband who adores his wife, and two teenagers, for whom he’d give his life in a heartbeat if it would save theirs.
He is having a difficult time, however, trying to make sense of how his death at this age would benefit anyone in his family. He doesn’t want to miss growing older with his wife. He doesn’t want to miss watching his teenagers grow into adulthood. He doesn’t want to miss birthdays, graduations, career choices, weddings or grandchildren. He wants to write more poems. He wants to live to be old and wrinkled and bald. Losing his hair to chemotherapy is just not the same.
I watch this man as he mentally struggles to back away from the precipice of the “what if’s” and return to this day and what he can do now. He puts it down on paper – in a journal or in the form of a poem. You can read over his shoulder as he writes what may be his final chapter on The Oklahoman website: www.newsok.com/jimchastain.
His willingness to share his thoughts, feelings and daily choices of how he spends his time is a gift to the rest of us. While someone with terminal cancer is told they have a limited amount of time to live, in reality that is true for each of us. Happily ever after is only in fairy tales.
Whether I live one more year or twenty, I am learning from Jim that the antidote to the fear of death is to embrace the possibilities of where I am now.
Perhaps you, too, would like to join me in pondering, “If this was the last year of my life, what are the choices I would want to be making?” Mine are: to listen deeply, love without limits, and live with intention – like Jim.
FROM JANUARY 22 COLUMN