Dear Lucy: A dear friend of mine has just received a diagnosis of cancer and told that she only has a certain amount of time to live. She has already begun to act like it's all over. I am angry and devastated at the idea of her passing and wish that there was something I could do to help out. What can I say or do?
Dear FG: Rather than say something about diagnoses, predictions of death, prognoses, treatments etc., I would rather talk to you about a couple of experiences I have had.
First story: My husband, Harold, was diagnosed with a cancer and told he would be dead in two years without a particular treatment path that included some really significant losses in quality of life. Harold had always been one of the most pleasant, happy and life-affirming people to grace the planet. He opted out of the treatment recommendations in favor of living life fully or not at all. He also opted to use alternative approaches to his health.
More than anything, I observed him make a solid, irrevocable decision to be alive in each and every present moment. When people would visit him, they would go away with a feeling of having been the center of his attention because he spent his time focused on speaking to people of the wonders in their lives. He lived seven years after being sentenced to only two.
Second story: Several years after Harold passed on, I went to a retreat and was introduced to firewalking. Yes, walking barefoot on a six-foot bed of hot coals! To take the walk was optional. First, we walked out into this field and watched the staff build this huge woodpile and set it on fire. We went back to the classroom to wait about an hour for it to burn down to hot coals.
During this hour, the retreat facilitator taught us the principles of walking on fire without getting burned. Very simple rules were imparted.
• Before stepping onto the coals decide that you will not be burned.
• Walk quickly.
• Pay attention to the task at hand.
• Keep your eye on the end. The end is that you will walk on the hot, burning coals and not be burned.
• If you are afraid, do not get on the coals.
That was it. Of course, we signed a statement that we were walking at our own risk. I walked that night and was so impressed with the simplicity and message in it that I went on to become a Certified Firewalking Instructor.
To me, firewalking is what living is pretty much about; making a decision to live fully in every moment and not be burned; to look for the good in every situation; paying attention to the present moment (the only one you really have), and being fearless. The scriptural reference that has always summed this up for me is the 91st Psalm. Reading it every single day is an excellent way to get through personal fires.
Another important strategy is that of asking, in every situation, "What am I learning?" "If what my body is feeling or experiencing was a message of life to me, what would that message be?"
Every change that we endure, search out its goodness and embrace as a step upward is a blessing. The inherent nature of life is change. Help your friend to continue to live, learn and grow as you model the same behavior in your interactions with her. Let your life tell the story that you want her to hear.
Walking over hot coals is a cinch when you make the decision at the outset to not be burned.
Thank you for the question,
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or go to her web site www.heartworks4u.com.)