So which is worse: a long, drawn-out illness or a sudden, unexpected death?
As the caregiver of a loved one with Huntington’s disease, I’m dealing with someone who is going to be suffering for a number of years. What my wife, Jill, will endure will not be a walk in the park.
As the brother of a woman who died in a tragic accident, I’m dealing with a huge shock. A tree fell on my sister’s car as she and her son sat in her driveway on a stormy Halloween night. Her cancer was in remission. She was planning on retiring within the next several years. Life seemed good.
And then, boom. A tree crushed the car and severed her spinal column, causing a traumatic brain injury.
Both situations are horrible. Which is worse?
I want to share a story about my recent trip to visit my brother-in-law and his two children. The night before the funeral for my sister, Rose, I picked up three of her friends at the airport. After leaving the terminal, I was driving 60 miles per hour in the third lane from the left on Interstate 95. As is normally the case, traffic was heavy. Suddenly, I saw something I never expected to see on a busy interstate highway: a deer.
Think about that for a moment.
A healthy deer, about 200 pounds by my estimate, had made it across two lanes and was heading toward mine. It was exactly one week, almost to the hour, after the tree fell on my sister’s car.
I immediately shifted to defensive driving. I pressed the brakes. I turned the steering wheel slightly to the right. And somehow the deer did not step directly into the path of my car, but bounced off the left side of it. It cracked the headlight, sheared off the left rear-view mirror, and dented the driver’s side door.
I was grateful that the car, which was not my own, wasn’t totaled. I was glad no one in the car was hurt. I don’t think any cars behind me were damaged. What could have been tragic turned out relatively well.
But if something horrible had happened, how would I have reacted?
Life is full of these moments. You expect one thing, but something else happens. There is no time to prepare.
Which again begs the question: Which is worse, something tragic that occurs suddenly or something tragic that is dragged out over time?
I argue that neither is worse. If we say one is worse, then it will be worse. Our focus should be on the good happening in the moment.
If something unexpected occurs, maybe you appreciate life more. If an illness is drawn out over a long period of time, maybe you have an opportunity to show your love through your sacrifices, actions, and words.
Life is all about living moment to moment and focusing on the good in each of them. If a moment is experienced and acted upon with love and good intentions, it becomes a blessing.
We can be bitter or better. I say we choose better.
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