A patient came in today to talk about how best to approach what could be his last Christmas. A former smoker, two weeks ago, he coughed up blood. His chest x-ray showed a lung mass. He was quickly referred for bronchoscopy and the biopsy confirmed cancer.
While awaiting his PET scan and other investigations to determine if his cancer has spread beyond the lungs, he asked how best to cope from day to day.
I recommended a book that I had just finished reading, Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day As If It Were Your Last. Dr. Lee Lipsenthal was a medical doctor who taught patients how to live fully and gratefully each day. The book is about his personal experience in applying his positive approach as he himself coped with the diagnosis of esophageal cancer.
We can never know how much time we have left – to live our lives, to enjoy the pleasures of each day, to appreciate the company of family and friends, to do what we love to do, to do what we need to do, and to say what we need to say.
In our most meaningful relationships, what needs to be said includes (1) expressions of appreciation (“Thank you”), (2) acceptance and forgiveness (“I forgive you”), (3) acknowledgement and repentance for the harm we may have caused (“Please forgive me”), (4) what they mean to you and how much you love them (“I love you”) and finally (5) closure (Good bye).
During the holidays as we gather with friends and family, let us act knowing that this could be our last Christmas together. Be fully present. Take time to listen . . . and understand. Enjoy every smile, every hug and every kindness.
Let us not waste the precious moments of our time together being cynical, critical or angry about matters that have little significance from the perspective of our whole lives and our relationships.
Don’t waste an opportunity to be kind and to express love.
Get caught up in the magic of the holidays . . . the wonder of being alive and the comfort of feeling connected.
And though you may eat a little too much from the doctors’ naughty list of foods, enjoy every bite.