Every Saturday night, after Dr Who, the Graham Norton Show airs on BBCA. (Is my nerd showing??) I’m a new fan of the show even though it’s been on for years. He (Graham Norton) typically has three famous people on the couch all at once which is a departure from the usual interview program where one comes out at a time. Last night, Timothy Spall was one of the guests. I was not familiar with him, but I’m sure those of you in the UK will know him fairly well. It came out during the show that he had once been diagnosed with leukemia and given THREE days to live! He did say that he didn’t know he had only three days left until well after he survived those days, but he did know that he was terminal. Graham Norton asked him if the experience changed him. As part of his answer he said – I think this is a direct quote; if not, it’s close – “What it gave me was a bigger intolerance for BS, but with a more open mind”!!!
Years ago, I lived next door to a woman who, ten years prior, had a liver-pancreas transplant in an effort to save her life. At the time of the surgery she was told that they could guarantee her ten good years, but anything past that would be unexpected and “gravy”. She, too, used to talk about her intolerance for not only BS, but the intolerance, close-mindedness, petty arguing, sweating-the-small-stuff mentality of so many people. She said she didn’t have time to “play the games” and only spent time with those who uplifted her, brought her joy or enjoyment, and accepted her for who and how she was.
Once someone receives the news that their life is limited in some way – whether it be through time or ability – their priorities are brought into focus in a whole new way on a whole new level. People and relationships become important. Not things, or jobs, or sports or games. I remember a terminally ill woman saying to me that when she thinks back on how long she took to choose the fabric on her living room furniture she laughs at how unimportant that really is and how important she thought it was at the time.
We’ve all heard it said that at the end of our life we won’t be wishing we worked harder or played longer or amassed more money. We’ll be thinking about our relationships. All of them. Those we loved. Those we lost. Those we regret and those for which we are grateful.
You don’t need a terminal diagnosis to refocus and prioritize the people in your life. Do it today. It will be the one thing you will not regret…
Copyright 2014 Lisa B. Wolfe, Translating Grief, LLC