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  • Bob Ginsberg

How Would You React?

I recently had a series of imaging studies completed, and the results could have gone two ways. The outcome was either going to be that it was nothing to worry about, or it would be a death sentence. Based upon my past experiences, family tragedies, and the absence of “luck” in my life, I was prepared for both outcomes but expected the worst. Much to my surprise, the final test results were good, and I dodged a bullet.

I realize that the question that I am about to propose is virtually impossible to answer unless you find yourself in this situation, but what would be your thoughts if given a terminal diagnosis? My curiosity stems not only from contemplation of my own mortality, but from experiences with my own family members who faced their impending death.

Some people choose to accept the inevitable for what it is, but others refuse to do so and commit themselves to battle at all costs. We are taught to believe that life is precious, and we must do everything that we can to keep living. Certainly, our doctors practice this doctrine, and most take offense to any suggestion otherwise. Our friends, family and colleagues urge us to be strong and power on, as we fight, fight, fight. I understand their position, as the thought of being extinguished forever is terrifying and simply not acceptable. Unless, of course, you believe that death is not the end and your soul, consciousness, or mind lives on. It appears that those who believe that death is not the end have less fear of dying, and that seems logical. So, a major determining factor regarding acceptance is one’s belief about what if anything comes next.

That does not mean that accepting your fate prevents sadness. Sadness for what we wish we would have accomplished, sadness over leaving our loved ones, or sadness over things that we wished we would have said (or not said). Regret can be a powerful emotion. In my own case, and I recognize that I only had the potential for a terminal diagnosis, I did not have a problem with acceptance of my physical demise. I certainly was not happy about it, but I have always lived by the doctrine of “it is what it is.” I had surprisingly few regrets, and any fear that I had was regarding potential suffering before dying. Maybe my thought process would have been different if I was younger, or if I did not have family members who passed before me.

You might think that contemplating such things is a futile exercise, and perhaps it is. However, the value as I see it comes from being forced to evaluate your life, and possibly making some changes to minimize the potential regrets.

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