Already Dead

Two weeks ago, I developed a persistent dry cough. It feels all too familiar to the one that began three years ago that led me down a path to Stage III Lymphoma with a 10cm tumor in my chest.

My procrastination around getting a two-year post-chemo scan now seems like a bad idea. So I scheduled it for next week. Although blood work yesterday showed no anomalies, the most apparent cause is a form of heartburn from drinking too much coffee and having an acidic diet the past month.

I am not worried and wish you not to be either. I will update you all after the scan.

Last week, during a men’s retreat, as my cough progressed and exacerbated, the mantra, already dead, began appearing in my awareness. It has remained a close companion ever since. The cough would appear simultaneously with already dead, which I began perceiving as a gift and reminder of my mortality as we explored the interrelated topics of sex, purpose, love, and death.

The contemplation it offered was this: Would I be living my life any differently if I knew I had a tumor in my chest or not? Should I be? I realize there is always a tension between living fully in the moment and living with the belief that we may live X number of years and preparing for them. Focusing on the former, you become a hedonist, potentially becoming broke and unhealthy while having a hell of a time. In the latter, you are constantly preparing for a future that may or may not come, not fully living. We must navigate a middle path for ourselves.

I’m alive now, as I assume you are if you’re reading this. I can feel my breath and my heart beating. At some ‘now’ in the future, tumor or not, you and I will experience a final moment, our heart will stop, and we’ll take our last breath. As I contemplate nonexistence, my body cold and still, I no longer think about the money I have or don’t have, the accumulation of experiences, or the excitement of those not had yet. Instead, I ponder, who did I love, and did I love them enough? Did I give my deepest gifts? Did I offer myself fully?

David Deida says in Blue Truth:

A life lived well embraces death by feeling open, from heart to all, in every moment. Wide open, you can offer without holding back, you can receive without pushing away. Wide open, heart to all, you are openness, unseparate from this entire open moment. Every part of the moment comes and goes as openness.

Your lover’s embrace: sweet, full, already loosening. Every moment is miraculous and disappearing. Every experience, profound and empty, both.

Life lived for the sake of experience is a half-life, tense, insecure, lonely, and unfulfilled. Your experience cannot fulfill you because as soon as it comes it is already gone, a thin wisp, the tail end of hope, receding out of reach.

Ungrasped, this moment of life burgeons free and bright. Surrendering wide, breathing deeply, offering your heart, you are birthed open as this moment. Death is permission to open freely as love.

What am I, what are you doing with this very moment of life? Does the contemplation that death is near permit you to open freely as love? What would change for you if you knew you would cease to exist in one year, two years, or five years?

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