Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Fear

What scares you?  Ghosts?  Walking alone on a dark street?  Forgetting somebody's name?  Dying before you're ready?

The guy who holds the record for working at the local branch of my company the longest (more than 30 years) retired eighteen months ago, not long after his 70th birthday. I received an email from him this week.  He found some old work stuff he thought I might want. A couple of back-and-forth emails later, in the middle of some catching up, he casually told me he has been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and is undergoing radiation treatments.

WHAT!?

I've lost parents, aunts, uncles and cousins to various diseases over the past few years but getting this kind of news from someone I used to see almost every day, someone who isn't all that much older than me, someone who rarely took a sick day, is what scares me. Just last year I learned a former girlfriend died. Last week I learned my former mother-in-law died. A former coworker died about five years ago, at an age just one year older than I am now. Two years before that, another coworker died, in her 40s, after surviving three rounds of cancer. A bar friend in her thirties was diagnosed with cancer last year; in remission, for now, but experiencing other health issues.

Nobody lives forever but many of us want to. If I died this afternoon, people would say I lived a remarkable life, but I am in no way ready for it to end. If family genetics are any indicator, I could live another thirty years or more. I'd like that a lot, especially if my health remains fairly good.

My fear is that I'll die before I'm ready. Close proximity to death was rare during my first fifty years but now it seems to be all around me. My parents outlived all of their friends and most of their siblings. That kind of loneliness scares me.

Fortunately I am fairly social and make casual friends easily. Deep friendship building is more of a challenge. But I am an optimistic man and I usually think I'll live a long time, in pretty good health, surrounded by people who care about me. However, the all-too-frequent reminders of the fragility of life definitely scare me.

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