Living in the Now While Waiting for the Biopsy

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I found another spot.  On my way to conduct a funeral Friday afternoon, I glanced in the rearview mirror while at a stop light to make sure I didn’t have anything unsightly on my face, nose, mouth before arriving at the funeral home.

That’s when I saw the spot.  A white mark on my upper lip.  It wouldn’t wipe off. “Rats,” I said to no one in particular.  I’ve seen that kind of mark before – on my arm.  

15 years ago. 

Melanoma.  

The light turned green so I drove on.  At the next red light I took a selfie and sent it to my friend and Dermatologist PA and asked, “What do you think?”  She replied within 5 minutes.  “Come in Monday.”

I went in.  I came out with a biopsied, bandaged upper lip.  

I’ve had two previous melanomas and one squamous cell carcinoma (the wound from that surgery is still healing).  

Now, I wait.  What will the biopsy show this spot to be?

I know the principles of living in the now.  But I don’t know how to live those principles all of the time. Sometimes I do it. Sometimes I don’t.  Right now, for me to live in the now, is a choice. 

It has yet to become an automatic response. 

The “right now” is this:

  • I don’t know the nature of the spot. That’s the fact.  So why worry about something that may not be?  Why let a fear of tomorrow rob me of the fun I can have today?
  • I feel good. At least until the anesthesia wears off!  
  • I have great care from the dermatology team.
  • I have this moment.  Right now.  That’s all I’m guaranteed. So, I will make this present moment, standing here typing and drinking from a straw, looking at Denise across the room, the best moment ever. 

I will live by Calvin’s philosophy when he says to Hobbs, “We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” 

 

Yes, We Will All Die.

I have a funeral today, Wednesday, March 2, 2022 – Ash Wednesday.  This will be the third funeral I’ve conducted this week.  

I face death regularly.  It’s part of the job.  Some humorist has said that the job of the pastor is to “Marry and Bury.” It’s a life of dealing with the “wed and the dead.”

Ash Wednesday is a reminder of death. The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are meant to represent dust.  When receiving ashes on their foreheads, they hear the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).  

Thanks, but no thanks, for the reminder.  We don’t like to be reminded of, to think about, death.  So we say just about anything to avoid saying the d-word:

  • Kicked the bucket
  • Six feet under
  • Bought the farm
  • Pushing up daisies
  • Passed away
  • Restin in peace

I get it.  Death is hard to face.  So to help us face it, we actually wear the reminder on our face. 

And that reminder is a good thing. Knowing that I will die motivates me to live a fuller life.  

After a funeral, I’m typically:

  • more “alive” – more aware of the beauty of all around me and its fragility.
  • more grateful
  • kinder
  • more affectionate
  • more loving
  • more here, now. 

My senses are sharpened.  Living with an awareness of death can make my living more loving. 

We don’t like to face death because we fear the loss brought by death. Yes, there is loss, but there is also gain.  “To die is to gain” (Philippians 1:21), Paul reminds us. It’s a trade. And it’s a trade up. 

So, I’m off to this funeral.  And I will return to a fuller life. 

In Memoriam

On this Memorial Day:

I will remember with gratitude those who died in efforts to preserve our freedoms (Freedom of speech, Freedom of worship, Freedom from want, Freedom from Fear – President Franklin D.Roosevelt’s speech of January 6, 1941).

I will mourn those who died in our wars while mourning the presence of war. I will long for and work for the time where we “will study for war no more,” when nation will not take up swords against nation nor will they train for war anymore (Isaiah 2:4).

I will remember May 31, 1921 – the Tulsa Race Massacre. One white Tulsa resident labeled a photograph of the carnage, “Running the Negro Out of Tulsa.” The event remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our country and one of the least known. I didn’t know about it until a couple of years ago. How about you? How could something so horrific be so hidden? “If we don’t face it we can’t fix it.” Maybe we didn’t want to fix it? Do we now?

I will remember the family members of those whose funerals I’ve conducted. Church members, friends, strangers who through a death became friends.

I will remember Mom and Dad and other family members who have transitioned – Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins.

I see things that remind me of them. Signs that say “Look. They existed.” And I know they exist still. As Paul Coehlo writes, “We never lose our loved ones. They accompany us; they don’t disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms.”

In the meantime, this afternoon, I think Denise and I will take Dad’s 73 Beetle for a spin. I’ll polish it up a bit first. That’s what Dad would want.

Remember.

COVID and Dying Alone

A poster to be placed in Dad’s hospice room since COVID kept us out.

Dad died Sunday morning, October 11.

Alone.

I was not there.  My sisters were not there. 

We could not be there.  COVID-19 did not allow it.

On Wednesday, October 7, dad tested positive for COVID-19.  Yes, he was already dying.  That’s why he was in Hospice.  But COVID accelerated his death…and isolated his dying. 

Of all the pains of this pandemic – and there are many – dying alone has to be one of the most intense.  That dad was alone when he died haunts me.  

Oh, I know the Bible verses that assure us that “we are never alone,” but you get the point, don’t you?  I know without a doubt that God was there.  

But we weren’t.

I also know that the kind, competent, considerate nurse was at dad’s bedside minutes before he died, but she had to step out.  When she stepped out, dad slipped away.  I don’t blame the nurse.  Not one little bit.  Medical staff across the country have been heroic as they have served on the front line. They are angels of mercy holding the hands of the dying and spiritually placing those hands into the hands of other angels.   But they do not replace loved ones whom the dying need to be with, speak with, be with, one last time.  

And the loved ones need to be there one last time.

I don’t understand those who deny the severity and impact of the virus. I get a little mad about it.   Today, I just feel sad about it. 

 Where is the compassion toward and empathy for the dying and for the displaced living?  Are people unable or just unwilling to feel it? 

Our heath care workers get it. They have it. Compassion and empathy.

Thank you health care workers for not just caring for the body, but for the soul.