March 1, 2021
What you see on the surface often obscures what hides underneath. On Valentine’s Day, I decided to make some chili for a cold winter day. After my wife left for a short errand, I put some items in the laundry, refilled my coffee cup, and sat down in front of my computer to work on an essay I was trying to birth.
I began to study what I had written when I was overtaken by a strange sensation. I had the feeling my consciousness was fading, yet it was quickly replaced by the feeling of being detached. I was an observer but not in control of my senses. This feeling lasted several seconds, followed by an involuntary jerking of my neck on my left side while simultaneously experiencing a twitching of my left eye and eyebrow. This continued for about 30 seconds and vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. I was able to move my hands, arms, and fingers throughout. When it stopped, I grabbed my phone and called my wife, who quickly quit her errand, came home in less than five minutes, collected me, and took me straight to the nearest hospital ER.
Valentine’s Day is a day we traditionally celebrate our love and commitment to our special ones, wives, and sweethearts. This year I surprised my wife with a bouquet of red roses. It is not something I do every year. Over more than 50 years of our marriage, I did it when it seemed especially appropriate. I should add we are not inclined to show the importance of our love and commitment for each other in material ways. We do it daily. We skip commercially co-opted and promoted events.
This year I was moved to celebrate it when an opportunity appeared. I was in the store and saw the flowers. My wife divided the roses and placed them in several locations around the house. It added beauty, color, vibrancy, and a happy mood. What followed changed none of that.
I was admitted to the ER and interviewed by a physician assistant. As the assisting nurse prepared to transport me to have a CT scan and x-rays, I experienced another short seizure of twitching that lasted for about 10 seconds. This time my wife and the nurse were able to observe what was taking place. I was taken for a CT scan and x-rays. Upon returning, I had another conversation with the physician assistant. She identified the cause of my seizure as a small mass on the right side of my head. I was taken back for an MRI. When I came back, the ER doctor soon joined my wife and me to explain my medical situation. His demeanor was stiff and restrained. He chose words carefully, delivering a straight, honest, and factual message, no fluff.
The seizure was caused by an approximately one-centimeter tumor on the right side of my brain. It was located above the ear toward the frontal cortex and near the surface toward my right temple. It was causing a larger area of inflammation and swelling, thus the seizure.
Two days before I had become vaguely aware, I was having some difficulty while writing down a few reading notes. My muscle control seemed compromised. I had trouble writing legibly. I took notice and thought it strange but passed it off since I rarely write in cursive anymore. It was a clue I chose to ignore.
The doctor saved the most important news for the last. The mass in my head did not originate there. It had migrated from elsewhere, and when they x-rayed my lungs, they found some small nodules in my right lung. Here was the smoking gun. He said they could not make an accurate determination of what we were facing until a biopsy of the mass could be done to identify it precisely. He added these cases usually could not be cured. He left those words to hang in the air.
I returned to the hospital at 5:30 am on the following Monday, February 22, 2021, to be admitted to surgery to remove the tumor. I will not know what I face until the biopsy of the mass the doctor extracted from my head is identified. But some things are clear and do not require me to wait for an answer.
My response to this new reality was to accept whatever the future brings, knowing it will be challenging, difficult, probably painful, with an uncertain, or possibly a dreadful outcome. It is what it is. My choice is to play the hand I’m dealt with as much skill I can muster and hope to buy as much time as possible, taking advantage of each minute to do all I can to enrich this life and leave no stone unturned. But a greater awareness soon overtook me.
My life has been dominated by two diverse themes. One was the six decades of periodic severe depression that plagued every aspect of my life. The second theme was my having faced my death 35, now 36 times stretching over the whole of my life. I suddenly realized they were all aimed to this moment. My purpose was and is wrapped in these events. They prepared me to meet this challenge at this moment and in this place. The sudden insight unleashed a powerful jolt of energy. On this Valentine’s Day, I was gifted, granted, and bestowed the greatest gift I could ever dream of receiving. I was allowed intense insight, clarity, vision, intention, awareness, and purpose I could not have achieved by any other means. I am free! Writing that word does not begin to express the depth or breadth of its meaning. I perceived truth as taught throughout the ages and revealed in all religious traditions. It is overwhelming in a most profound way.
I am aware nothing is certain. Nothing is determined. Everything is impossible until it is done, or you do it. My mother was adamant in teaching me during her almost 104 years of life to never, never, never, ever, give up. That is how I am made.
That said, there are other equally or more important things to be shared and acknowledged. While I will never ever give up, I do understand surrender. I surrender to the experience and the challenges that lie ahead. I am comfortable with who I am. I know my reason and purpose. I live with intention. I understand today is all I have. What is most important is to live in this moment, do all and accomplish all I am able each gifted minute I am given. It is my way of honoring my creation. My gift of having received this wonderful life is filled with the love of family and friends.
I have goals to reach, tasks to complete, and promises to fulfill. My sense of urgency is increased, but I accept that as my motivation for becoming more focused, more intentional, more purposeful, mindful, and fully aware. I live my life with intention and purpose while pursuing work to awaken others to the perils we face. I encourage movement in the direction of restoring our Earth as we restore ourselves to lives filled with meaning, purpose, and love.
I focus on teaching and trying to be an example for others. My work is laser-focused on the questions that lurk behind every issue we humans face. We enter a future no less challenging than the one I am facing immediately. My goal is modest. I strive to change one person, change one life, make one more person aware, encourage one person to get involved and committed to changing our world. If I accomplish that, I view my work as being a success and my purpose fulfilled.
The filters, the governors, the censors have been removed. I am free to share as I feel. I know that I will without fear of what comes.
In the course of my more than 75 years of life, I faced my death 35 times. Before Valentine’s Day, I had hoped 36, the terminal event, would be delayed indefinitely. What is clear to me is these 35 moments were all designed to get my attention. Number 35 in May of 2018 did. I suffered a heart attack. I had experienced no symptoms nor prior indicators that would have been forewarnings. It was pure genetics. My father died of a sudden heart attack at age 73 with no previous conditions.
The heart attack got my attention. I took an extensive and intensive inventory of my life and decided what I should keep. I dumped the rest. It resulted in my making some profound life changes. A lot of things were cast off. It provided better insight and pointed to a different future with more purpose, intention, and practice living more in the moment.
This Valentine’s Day was a different kind of awaking. I face something I never considered as more than a remote possibility. There is no history of cancer in my long line of direct ancestors. Genetics may be missing, but environment and lifestyle also are a factor, however, none of this matters. I take what I know or will soon, and we will decide on a path and see where it goes, cherishing and relishing each moment we have together and enjoy the moments.
This event is a call for waking up. I have work to do, and each day, each moment is of much greater value and importance to use as best I can. I feel up to the challenge and surrender to the adventure. As described in Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, I seek the magic elixir to bring home so I can share its wisdom and its secrets with all others. The outcome of my path is unknown. I see the Balrog waiting on the precipice. I know I will prevail regardless of the result.
Also at: Jerrymlawson.medium.com