Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Are You Living a Life of Substance?


 I had the strangest thing just happen. I woke up hearing the oncologist’s voice as he diagnosed me with terminal cancer and gave me two years to live. 


After he left, I looked out the hospital window and just thought, “I’m tired of living in fear and regret and dealing with so much guilt.” 


I suddenly felt exhausted from trying to accomplish things so people would be proud of me. My gosh, I wrote ten books in less than ten years. I became a physician liaison for the biggest hospital in southeastern Idaho. I worked as a publisher for a newspaper—and it STILL wasn’t enough. Like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it, no matter how much I put in there, it eventually ended up empty and dry.


At the end of my life, when I looked back, the only thing that really mattered was making a positive difference for the people I love. My so-called accomplishments, degrees, and careers all came up short. So, I wanted to make a change with the time I had left. And it wasn’t about me; life became about bettering the lives of those around me.


Whether my soul went on after death or ceased to exist, it no longer mattered anymore. What felt important was if my memory would remain with the people I care about. 


I wanted to ask you: Are you living the life that you really want? I’m not talking about quitting your job so you can move to the beach and surf all day; I’m talking about living a life of substance… of purpose. Or are you doing what I did: Searching for significance in all of the wrong places? Striving to fill your soul but getting stuck in monotony and forgetting that each day is a gift?


I hate to write this, but I do have terminal cancer. I’m fighting. Every single morning is a struggle to get up. It’s a struggle to go out. But I’m grateful because the fact that I’m struggling means I’m still alive.


If you’re reading this post, I hope you’ll take a minute to remember how lucky we are to have consciousness and the ability to even make choices. It’s vital that we recognize one simple truth: Our quality of life hinges on perspective AND attitude. Positivity can be an immense beacon in the darkness. Search for it and embody it.


So, even though life can be tough and I’m often in pain from the tumors in my bones, I’m grateful that I’m still alive—longer than doctors predicted! 


I’m going to enjoy today with my husband and my kids. Some days I can hardly believe that G-d decided to make me. He made all of us—and I don’t think we should take His handiwork for granted. Despite cancer and hardships, there are so many good things too. 


I… really am the luckiest.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Lucky $87 and the Grocery Store Angel


 The Grocery Store Angel

By EC Stilson
ECStilson.com

So many incredible things keep happening that I've begun worrying... 


Let me explain: Have you ever had to put an animal down? Unfortunately, I have. And the night before their final day, we've given them steak, eggs—even ice cream—to ensure they're having the best possible day. Then, the next morning, we've had to let them go. This could be due to illness or just quality of life… Anyway, so many Godwinks keep happening in my days that now I'm worried this is my steak dinner from G-d.

 

"Don't be such a negative Nelda," you might say, but the problem is that once oncologists diagnosed me with terminal cancer, my world changed. I have an early expiration date. So, whether this is my steak dinner from G-d or not, I better enjoy each moment—and that's exactly what I've been doing.

 

“Do you remember the story about the $87?” I asked my mom after we’d gone to the grocery store. 


“How that lady paid for your groceries?”


I nodded. My card hadn’t worked, and a cashier—of all people—footed the bill. I kept looking for her so I could pay back the $87, but she'd quit working as a cashier. “I finally got to pay it forward,” I told my mom. “Last week a guy couldn’t get his card to work, so I paid his bill. Guess how much it was?”


She looked at me, stunned. “$87?”


“Yep.”


“That’s totally a Godwink. Is this the store where it happened?”


“Yeah. The cashier didn’t even know that I’m fighting terminal cancer—I wonder what she would’ve thought if I’d told her.”


My mom and I shopped for a while after that. I felt bad, but we took an extra long time because I had to keep stopping. “I’m so sorry,” I almost said it more to myself than my mom. I know she understands. After all, we’d gone to the store so she could make me her homemade chicken noodle soup. The problem is that I get mad at my body sometimes. I want to walk like I used to and jump around like Tigger, but I can’t even stand for long and I often use a wheelchair.


“Mom,” I said, trying to knock some sense into myself. “I’m gonna buy ice cream. It just sounds… fun.”


We’d rounded the corner when my mom’s expression changed. “You have…” She paused, trying to get another customer’s attention. “You have the most beautiful hair.”


A woman turned, practically glowing. Long gray hair danced from the back of her baseball cap, and after she left the ice cream isle, I could hardly speak. 


“Mom! Oh, my gosh. Mom! That’s the cashier!” The words wouldn’t come out fast enough.


“The cashier?” she asked.


“The one who paid the $87! The one I’ve been looking for all this time.”


“You have to tell her what happened,” my mom whispered.


I moved as quickly as I could, almost frantic as I tried to find the woman.


“Excuse me,” I said. “Excuse me.”


She turned, looking every bit the angel I remembered.


I told her then about how I’m fighting terminal cancer. I explained that she’d paid for my groceries on a day years ago when I needed kindness the very most. “I tried to find you, but you’d quit.”


She laughed so hard, those thoughtful eyes sparkling. “I just switched departments! I’ve been here the whole time.”


“I wish I could pay you back! But I ended up buying someone else’s groceries last week. And can you believe it was for the same amount?”


She didn’t seem surprised at all. “That’s how these things work. Thank you for paying it forward.”


“It was your money.” I laughed. “Thank you for what you did for me.”


As my mom and I walked away, I heard a distant voice say, “I’m so glad I saw you again. You changed my whole day.”


“You changed mine,” I said.


That night as I ate the chicken noodle soup, we wondered over the experience from the store. “I’d been so upset that I got sick and took forever. But if I hadn’t been so slow, we would’ve missed her. I guess it all worked out.”


Filled with good food and the blessings only G-d and kind people can bring, it suddenly didn’t matter how sick I’d felt that day. Life once again shone so bright, and I realized once more how lucky I am to even be alive.



 

 


Saturday, February 3, 2024

A Change of Perspective


 I turned 41 today. Birthdays mean a lot more than they used to, and I guess it’s because doctors said I’d never turn 40. Even though I’m still fighting for each day, I’m really lucky to even be here.


This reminds me of a birthday from a few years before doctors diagnosed me with terminal cancer. I’d gone to get my taxes done, and as the accountant assessed my information, I studied a photo in her office.


It’s an intriguing picture with five people lying on their backs in a grassy field. Each person is a different race—and the concept of “diversified yet unified” is beautifully clear. But there was something even more that I couldn’t quite grasp.


“Wow, you really like that photo,” the accountant finally said.


Suddenly what eluded me before shone through. “It’s amazing,” I said, seeing the whole scene differently. 


“I like it, but I wouldn’t say it’s ‘amazing.’” She set down some papers and turned to me. 


“I know there are a lot of photos out there like this, but I just realized what makes this one different,” I said. “If you stop focusing on the obvious things and just focus on their glasses.... Did you notice that every person is wearing eyeglasses?”


She came next to me and stared at the picture. “Their glasses, huh? Well, they look like regular gla— Wait, I see it: the reflection! I’ve never had anyone point that out before.”


The reflection shone faintly in each of their eyeglasses, but even those replicas were far more beautiful than the obvious picture itself. Greying buildings, lanky trees, and a stormy sky showed itself in the glasses. As if every subject looked at a dry, dying world, ready to be refreshed…


I momentarily wished the photographer had rested in the grass as well and taken a picture—not of the people, but up, seeing what had appeared above and around them. 


Were the people the real subjects of this photo, or had the artist realized what the glass told about their surroundings?


“You’re right, Elisa. That picture is amazing!” As I took my paperwork and got in my truck to drive away, I looked through the business window. The tax preparer sat down where I had been moments before, and she intently studied the picture in her office.