An online friend from a running group on FB passed away the other day. He fought cancer for many years and was an amazing inspiration to so many people in his attitude while doing so. His sister found his journal in his bag while he was in hospice and shared this entry, which I found very fitting to share with this lovely group of Buddhist folks
"There are a few choices that come with a cancer diagnosis. We can choose to accept defeat then and there. I've known several people who took that road and I understand how they felt. It's an enormous weight to drop on someone's shoulders. We can choose to fight. That's the road I took. I made a decision to fight as hard as I could, for as long as I could, with every weapon available. And to enjoy every moment of the process. Human beings love all the good in life but run for cover when the bad inevitably comes. There is so much to be gained from the struggle though. I certainly didn't want to leave that potential lying on the table. I told myself that I would accept what came my way. And to revel in it. Adversity brings viewpoints we will never find otherwise. Wisdom is learned most readily from mistakes and hardship. Battle hardened. Tough. Strength. Fearless. These come from the fire and I wanted them. If I were to enjoy only the milk and honey of life, I would only enjoy a portion of life. Why not break every bone and consume all the marrow? To laugh is to live and that was my main objective. When my time comes, I want to laugh and smile and make anyone watching laugh and smile. Go out with some dignity. There was no doubt misery would come. To enjoy that misery and to ask for more. That, my friend, will make one a king."
Dr. Darrell Henry
Just to bring an alternate, and perhaps complimentary, point of view: I've recently found there to be more wisdom in living in harmony with existence, rather than struggling against it with every weapon. Divining what is the harmonious course under adverse circumstances can be challenging, but is often more enlightening than struggle. Toughness and strength are admirable qualities, however insight and wisdom are more useful.
I hope Dr. Henry finds his kingship - but it is not for everyone.
"Do not go gentle into that good night..."
"There is a time to be born, and a time to die..."
I wonder how I will react when it's my time? That is, if I have the good - or bad, depending on your point of view - luck to have time to react? Guess I'll find out when the time comes.
Sorry about your friend. He sounds like someone interesting to know.
@Kerome I imagine it's a very different thing for everyone. He did not put forth ever that he was struggling. He made friends with his cancer and never spoke negatively even about the effects of his chemotherapy. He fought to live because for him, that fight held answers that dying alone couldn't offer. I think each of us knows when it is time to let go of our lives, and it wasn't his time just yet. It was through his "fight" that he came across wisdom, and helped many, many people along the way. He said once that the last thing he wanted was anyone to say he lost a battle with cancer. That the only battle we all have is with life, not death.
I am not sure how I would react either. It would depend on a lot of factors. My inclination would be to fight, at this point, because my kids already lost their dad. Giving up on life without fighting to remain with them would only hurt them further. They might understand in time, but they are too young now.
To live is to struggle. Look at how nature works. It's all the same from the tiniest creatures to the largest ones. Those who no longer struggle are those who are ready for death.
There are no painful mental states, chieftain,
in one without longing.
In one whose fetters are ended,
all fears are overcome.
With the ending of [craving]
the guide to becoming,
when phenomena are seen
for what they are,
then just as in the laying down of a burden,
there's no fear in death.
I've lived well the holy life,
well-developed the path.
Death holds no fear for me.
It's like the end of a disease.