FISCHLER: Pondering what a life is worth
What is a life worth?
Sitting here waiting for major lung surgery has given me time to ponder that question. After all, I might not come out of anesthesia; apparently two out of 1,000 don’t.
For the first few days after finding I would have this surgery, I was deluged by all of the things I had to get done … just in case. There were lists for my husband, so he could find the insurance policies, the wills and the bills that aren’t paid automatically.
I should sort through my belongings and clothing, and leave word of what should go where or to whom. Aaarrgh! Why hadn’t I done this a long time ago?
There was the health directive. Where was it? I know I made one out when they discovered the breast cancer almost eight years ago. Or did I?
Then came the tendency not to do these things, fueled by superstition. After all, if I didn’t leave a neat map of how our lives ran, that meant I would survive, right? We all know how stupid that one is!
Then the anger started: If I wasn’t around, what did I care if I left a mess for my husband and two sons to sort through? They’d at least still be alive. The chaos and mess would tell them how annoyed I was that I wasn’t there anymore.
The anger, of course, was just masking the self-pity, which flooded in next. Why was this happening to me? What had I ever done to deserve two battles with cancer? Poor me.
Meanwhile, as these emotional stages ran through me, I was doing two crossword puzzles, one jigsaw and three electronic games a day, sometimes almost simultaneously.
I had never been particularly adept at multi-tasking, but I certainly could manage three ways to procrastinate when it really mattered! Continued...
Then the question of what a life is worth hit … with the proverbial thud.
After all, did the world need a 72-year-old woman who was 30 pounds overweight, an expert on procrastination and jigsaw puzzles and only used her fancy, powerful iPad to play word games and occasionally do “FaceTime” with her friends and family?
Aha! This was where I was supposed to “give back” for the life I’ve been privileged to have. This was where I was supposed to impart those wonderful words of wisdom that would enlighten the next generation.
Yeah, except I haven’t accomplished my list of wonderful advice to the world in decades, and now I was going to do it in a week? Frustration zoomed in and I did a few more word games.
Serenity of a sort (“serenity” has always been elusive to me) began to set in. I don’t have to decide whether my life is worth continuing. Society in the form of the medical industry has already determined I’m worth trying to save, to allow the remainder of a life with some quality.
Why should I be concerned over whether I have made a contribution? Living as well as one can is a contribution.
By almost any standards existing today, I’ve paid my dues: one marriage for 44 years; two wonderful sons who are productive and contribute to society; five beautiful grandchildren to carry on; a career spanning a dozen books, 14 years on radio; two TV productions; teaching journalism at Columbia University; owning a women’s bookstore; 20 years of writing this column …
So take that, Fate! Stuff it, Destiny! My karma will run over your dogma!
Meanwhile I’m going to see if I can get above 10,000 points in “Wordle”.
Shirley Fischler resides in Boiceville and New York City. Her columna appears Saturday in the Life section.
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