Sunday, December 24, 2023

One Single Day: The Value of Time

 The dream is always the same, my mind’s way of processing terminal cancer.

In my dream, I’ve died and I’m missing my family, wishing I could see them, talk to them, hug them… one last time.

“Would you like to go back and repeat a day from your life on Earth?” God’s voice is strong yet gentle, just like His hand—the one I’m standing in right now. I look at the giant lines on His palm and the callouses on His fingers. What type of work caused callouses on the hands of God? Is He a musician like me? Does He work and toil too?

“Any day?” I ask, unable to hold the eagerness from my voice. To see my kids, Mike, and my loved ones again, well, that sounds like… Heaven. It’s suddenly ironic how subjective Heaven must be.

“Yes, Elisa. Any day.”

I think then about the days each of my kids were born, their milestones and triumphs; the moment I met Mike, our first kiss, our honeymoon; running a newspaper in Blackfoot, Idaho, and chasing so many stories my boss nicknamed me “Scoop”; visiting Italy, Mexico, Arizona, or Missouri with family; playing my violin for crowds and feeling the pulsing unity only music can bring… Each of those days were incredible, but would I want to experience them again? Or would that tarnish the memories? Plus, I wouldn’t want to change a thing. So, I shyly look down at my clasped hands, and I do something that surprises me.

“If it’s all right, God, I’d pick a regular day, nothing special. Just a day when I can talk to everyone I love.” I think about the words then. How interesting: What my life boils down to isn’t about my career, degrees, accomplishments, or experiences. At the end, to me the only thing of value is that my loved ones KNOW how much I love them. That I believe in them. That I’m proud of them. That they matter in general but especially to me. That is all I want in the end.

“A regular day. You’re sure?” He asks.

I nod. 

“Well, to talk with everyone… You met a lot of integral people toward the end of your life. What if it’s a day with suffering? After doctors discovered melanoma had gone to your brain? You’d still pick a day like that?”

I think for a moment. “As long as I can talk to everyone I love. Well, then it would be worth it.”

I wake up then, and most of the time after having this dream, I’m groggy and half asleep, wondering if this is my one day to “live” again. Seconds later, I shake off these thoughts and slowly start my day. But even though I’m living in a new “normal,” and I can’t walk quite right since melanoma ate my L3 and doctors removed a section of my spine… Even though I’m actively getting treatments and throw-up bags seem to be my best friend… Even though there are days when I want to complain because doctors say I’m slowly dying… After I’ve had this dream, I stop.

If I had died and this were my “one day” to re-experience life and tell my family and friends how much I love them, would the pain and sadness about cancer matter quite so much? Probably not.

So, it’s 5 a.m. on Dec. 24th, and I woke up after having this dream again. My back is flaring with pain and the damaged nerves in my legs and arms are tingling with electric shocks and as if they’ve simply fallen asleep from lack of blood flow. But I know this is “normal” when my pain medicine wears off. When faced with something like cancer, trauma, or any terminal illness, each of us discover what price we will pay in order to live. This. Is. Mine. I chose this. And you know what? That’s okay.

So, I’ll treat today as if it were my one special day to come back. I’ll reframe the pain, try to bring joy to people around me, tell everyone in my life how much I love them, and hope today will be as wonderful as it can be.

Although I’m not in remission, my crappy attitude sure is. Even though there isn’t a cure for the mutation of melanoma that I have (yet!), I would be a fool to forget how lucky I am to even be alive. My life is pretty good. I’ve lived a year longer than doctors expected, and I’ve realized the true value of… time.


  1. Dear Elisa, I may not be around much any longer, my energy is pretty low, old age, cancer, type 1 diabetes (the latter making my life the most difficult) are taking their tolls. But I love you, I think of you often and you and your family are in my heart, always. Sending much love to you all, on this Christmas Eve.

  2. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️