December 23, 2011

It's Christmas. What do you believe?

Merry Christmas to everyone. As I was raised in the christian/commercial version of the season, I feel comfortable with that salutation however, whatever your beliefs, I hope you have a great holiday season.

Christmas is a time of happiness for most/many of us, but it is a season deeply rooted in beliefs. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about some of my beliefs and how they may have changed since I became terminal.

When I was young, I believed in Santa Claus. There was nothing spiritual in that, but it fit in with the commercial nature of Christmas and, like most kids, I loved getting presents. Even though I believed in the story of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, I admit it was still all about the presents.

But that was then and this is now. Christmas has changed for me as it changes for all of us every year. It's a wonderful time when you are young and when your kids are young and it can still be wonderful when you're older, particularly if you use the time to celebrate your beliefs or to reach out and surround yourself with loving family and friends. When you have the spectre of an early death hanging over your head, these special times mean so, so much.

I am 58 years old now and I believe that the love of my family is the single most important thing I have. I don't believe in Santa Claus anymore and I'm really not that hung up on Mary and Joseph or even Jesus. In fact, I'm still not sure what spiritual beliefs I will take with me to the end. But Christmas makes me think of these things. For some reason, the religious aspects of Christmas bring to mind the eternal question of what happens when I die. However I know I'm not going to find an answer to that question this Christmas.

Beliefs are important. What we believe and what we don't believe help to define who we are and what direction our life takes. They say a lot about what kind of person we are..... what kind of person we have become.

As I was saying, I believe first in the love of family (and close friends). I think many of us take this for granted most of the time and, in the past, I was definitely guilty of that. But not anymore. As I ponder the true meaning of life, wondering what comes next for me, I know for sure that a big part of my life is the relationships I have with others. Every time we interact with someone else, we change something about them and that is what keeps us, as a society, moving forward. So many of our interactions in life are with our families - first our parents and siblings, and then our spouses and our own children. When we look back at what we've accomplished and think about the truly meaningful times in our lives, we find it is all about family and close friends. So, for me, this is the most important belief.

Many of my other beliefs have been tested by my initial diagnosis of cancer and my latest prognosis of an early death.

I have never really believed in miracles, which wasn't a big deal for me in the past but since I developed cancer, I have been asked by many people to believe in miracle cures. I'm sorry, but I just don't. I can't. And, no, I haven't been brain-washed by the global pharma conspiracy! I'm just the kind of person who needs proof! And, unfortunately, many, many people have died while waiting for a miracle cure to work.

I also don't believe that suddenly taking better care of yourself will cure cancer. The idea behind this is that strengthening your immune system will allow it to successfully kill cancer. I can accept that it might kill some cancer cells and therefore might help someone on the margin, but if your cancer is well advanced (as mine is), there is no evidence that it can wipe it out completely (which is how I would define a "cure").

I don't believe that doctors are Santa Claus or that their bag of goodies will cure my cancer. If there was a cure, I'd have it by now. Forget, "This might help,". And please don't get my hopes up!

I don't believe that death is necessarily a bad thing. It is inevitable, after all. If you prepare properly for it, I believe that you can have a "good" death. It is, of course, awfully sad for those you leave behind and, whatever happens to me, wherever I end up, I will miss everyone. But maybe I'll see everyone who has gone before and I will be able to look forward to seeing my dear wife and kids again!

I don't believe that God fixes sports games or helps Survivor contestants win challenges. If there is a supreme being, he or she certainly doesn't care who wins what. So thank yourself if you get that touchdown or get your flag up first. God has more important things to worry about. While I can see praying to beat a disease I personally don't believe that this will cure me. But everything helps and well.... you never really know!

I do believe in people, especially good people. While some people can be bad, it's not that I don't believe in them.... I just don't want to have anything to do with them. Good people are the salt of the earth and my associations and interactions with them have made my life so much better.

While I may not believe completely in God, Jesus and the rest of the "story" that defines the Christian theism, I do believe in what Jesus stands for. Peace on earth and good will towards man sounds pretty darn good whether you happen to be muslim, jewish, buddhist or even atheist. Unfortunately, I don't believe we will ever see that as a fundamental tenet of life on earth (we're too busy shooting at each other and blowing things up) but Christmas makes me think about it and affords me an opportunity to have a little hope for the future. For all of us.

I believe my mom and dad are waiting for me in some form when I die. My closeness to them during their last hours was intensely spritual and gave me hope that I will see them again. I miss them at Christmas.

I will be exploring my sprituality much more intensely as my time grows shorter and, of course, I will be sharing this with you. But for now, I just want to think good thoughts and make wonderful memories with family and friends. For now, I choose to believe in the Christmas spirit that brings people closer together to share love and happiness and make a little peace on our patch of earth.

Love transcends Christmas, but it is so much a part of this wonderful time of year. For Dianne and I, it is a special time and everything we can do together just adds to the wonderful storehouse of memories that she can hold onto and that I can take with me, wherever I go.

Merry Christmas everyone. Whatever your personal beliefs, enjoy the special feeling in the air. Be with those you love and love the ones you're with.


Jenny Cockram said...

Dear Doug:

Thank you for your words. I have to say I've been so busy myself I've not been keeping up with your journey and for that I am truly sorry. Bob had a bit of a scare in October with exploratory surgery. Not the clear prognosis we were hoping for, but no treatment for now. Just monitoring. We think of you often even if we don't connect. You have so much to offer by writing your thoughts for everyone. We have so many friends and family touched by this disease and many who were in your shoes not so long ago. The last part of their journey was not easy, but I wanted to let you know that your book and your words have helped a few in my inner circle alone. I hope you realize the impact you have is far reaching. Thanks for being strong enough to do that. It's not easy. Bob and I wish you a calm and peacefull Christmas with those that are important to you. And we'll keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

Jenny & Bob Cockram

Lori Hope said...

Doug, thank you for this beautiful Christmas gift, a gift of heart, soul, mind, and intellect. I appreciate your honesty, your candor about what you need and where you are in your life - your hopes, your opinions, your lessons learned. I wish I had the energy to write more now. Please know that I have read each word and felt and understood each sentence as best I could. All that comes to mind right now is "Thank you." And "I love you."
Big hugs to you and D-

Anonymous said...

Very best wishes during the holiday season and my deepest sympathy for what you are going through. I had a radical prostatectomy a little more than two years ago and so far so good. I am following your posts with more than intellectual curiosity. Once my father and my uncle got into an argument about where thay were going to go when they died and finally they asked my aunt to resolve the argument. She replied rather crossly that she didn't know where she was going to go when she died, she just knew she was going to have lots of company and I have always found that somewhat comforting. Regarding your belief that you are going to see your parents in the afterlife you may wish to read something I wrote some time ago. It can be found at the following: You have to read right to the end though. My best wishes to you.

Nan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nan said...

Hi Doug,
We spent Christmas Day with the Sturgeon family, loving those who were with us and missing those who were not. It is a very special time of year to remember and to spend time with family and friends, creating new memories. Hopefully you, Dianne and family had some quality time together during this Christmas season. I know that time is very precious to you, as it should be to us all, and I hope that you had the chance to make many more special memories.
Hugs to all,

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