Obviously I remain burdened by thoughts and feelings from Zoe’s final illness and death. There is a lesson in what happened to her from which I draw this note. Zoe was always strong, and lived with very good health for her 8 years. Rummy and Moses were considerably more sickly along the way. Whereas Moses has a rather poor coat, allergies, very itchy skin, must vomit if he gets a stomach ache, has a JCL/ACL problem that makes him limp at times, has a problem in one ear to which I must frequently attend, and so on, Zoe was strong, healthy, with a beautiful coat, could run longer and further than Moses, well muscled, and so on. And yet, cancer hit her suddenly and hard, and from all appearances, killed her in 2 months.
There is a lesson here for us. Except for Sister Deb, we are all in our ’60’s. We should not have the attitude of a woman on a commercial who says: “I am in my ’60’s, and I have a good, long life ahead of me, with lots of plans,” or words to that effect. Whenever I see that commercial, I think: “No way, lady, you are deceiving yourself. In your ’60’s, you do not have long to live”. Life is relatively brief and vulnerable to so many illnesses, accidents, mental challenges, and so on, that we would do well to think that we do not have many years left to live on earth. And act accordingly.
If Zoe could succumb to cancer so quickly, so could one of us. Both of our McKane parents had serious problems from cancer. I have already had skin cancer in my ear that grew into my mastoid bone (discovered by Zoe). Both had heart problems, Daddy was diabetic, Mama died from strokes. Rather than assume that we will live as long as our parents did, we should not take such longevity for granted. It is foolish to do so. We are all overweight, and except for Deb, not one of us gets sufficient exercise, and I dare say that we all need to improve our eating/drinking habits.
We do not know what the future brings, but prudence should tell us to treasure these days and months.This is not a “who cares what tomorrow will bring” attitude as in a popular song (“Today”), but a reminder to realize that any one of us could become seriously ill and even die within a relatively short span of time. To dismiss this note as “morbid” is, I think, unfair. I am trying to be practical and prudent. We can all learn a lesson from the way Zoe, relatively young and very healthy, was killed so quickly by cancer. And perhaps unlike any of you, I live in constant awareness that one false move by Moses, one impulsive run into a street, could be fatal. Or for me: again, with temperatures near 0 F, fresh snow on the ground, and much driving to do on bad roads to perform my duties this week-end, I would be foolish not to think that I could be in a serious or even fatal accident. Roads and the “highway” here are dangerous in good weather. And for those of you living in urban areas, surely you know how risky driving can be. One speeder or driver not paying attention could seriously injure or kill any one of us.
Far more than “financial planning,” we need sober awareness of the relative proximity to our final illnesses and death. This awareness does not move me to “retire early” and have a “merry old time” now. On the contrary, it indicates that I must consider what is most worth doing, take steps to do it now or as soon as possible, and be sober-minded about the proximity of serious illness and death. I have long been aware of the nearness of death. But now I realize more vividly that cancer or heart disease or some other fatal illness may be at work even now in this body—and if one or more disease is not present now, in a relatively brief span of time, serious illness or accident will strike.
Such is a warning painfully heard in Zoe’s sudden illness and death.