Imagine having a terminal illness and knowing your time here on this Earth is limited. What are the things that you would want to accomplish? For some, one of the most important things they want to do is to live each day to the fullest with their loved ones. Creating memories that will be cherished by those who truly know us.
Dan Mathis found himself in this situation. He had other goals to accomplish, such as giving people with Pulmonary Fibrosis a forum where they could express their deepest emotions and still be accepted as family. Dan founded the Pulmonary Fibrosis Spread Awareness group on Face Book and reached out to everyone who came there, giving all a safe place to vent, laugh or cry. Even as he was doing this and struggling with the physical pain of his body, he also wanted to spend beautiful moments with his family.
Together, Dan and his family planned a vacation and went away together. When he returned he posted a picture of himself. Sun glimmering off of his glowing cheeks, sand at his feet, and the sweetest little grand-baby sitting on his lap. All in front of the backdrop of a bright blue sky. When he posted this, there were many who were happy for him. Glad to see the love and happiness that he was still sharing. Also, there were some who questioned, why did he not look as sick as he says he was? They cast their doubts of his illness.
Dan responded, "Wow. The bad attitude of me going to the beach. Let me tell you one thing, to those who say 'I thought your health is in end stage?' ~Well, I have a family that deserves to have a life and I will do anything to make their life with me memorable. It took so much out of me and I smiled the whole time. Now I am having repercussions from it and wouldn't have changed it for nothing. If Pulmonary Fibrosis takes me tonight ~I am ready."
When I read this, I asked Dan permission to write something about it on my blog. He gave me his permission. I think his words had an impact on me as I recall that my husband felt the same way. I remember a few of our get-a-ways after his diagnosis. They were never easy as it takes such a great amount of preparation to go when someone is sick. Then there were the scary butterflies in our tummy's, not fun butterfly's, but the kind that reminded us that we were truly taking his life into our hands by going somewhere. Would he have enough oxygen, medications? What if something went wrong?
At the same time, I will never forget glancing over to the passenger seat and watching my husbands eyes glimmer in the reflection of the sky, streams, and mountains, all putting him in a beautiful trance. And, I realized, what he already knew, that this may be the last time he sees such beauty. Our World. Soaking all of it in just one more time. Sharing this together, He and I, our children. Nothing can ever take away the memories we created and indeed it was worth every moment.
I also recall that no matter how ill my husband was, he was always ready to greet a visitor and told me to never turn anyone away. When it came time for a picture to be taken, my husband always removed his oxygen. Too proud to take photos with it on, even when that meant losing his precious breath. Ahhhh, but this is the way he was and this is the way he wanted to be remembered. As the shutter snapped, the photo captured light that settled into his eyes and a glow upon his cheeks. I was ever conscious that he was dying, but yet in awe at how beautiful a man he still was....Always taking the time to create another moment of memory for someone else. I look at our family photos and remember all the time we shared together, grateful.
Dan passed away yesterday. It was a couple weeks after his vacation. I can't help but think how lucky he was to feel the sand in his toes and create those memories for his family. If there is anything I can take away from knowing these things is to keep reminding myself of what I would like to accomplish in my life. It is simple, really, just to remember that everyday is an opportunity to connect with my loved ones and build tiny moments upon moments, filled with love.
Dan Mathis July 2013