Over the past three years alone, Lewis has gone through more procedures, treatments, major surgeries and diagnoses than most families go through in one lifetime. And since he was born, there have been a number of health crises that have scared the daylights out of me more times than I care to remember.
Through it all, Lewis has always had a peculiarly optimistic take on life, living for the moment, planning for the future, not dwelling on the past, recent or distant. He has his moments of unhappiness but then again, don’t we all?
This morning, the topic of discussion Lewis embarked upon was about life and living, the inevitability of fate and the concept of free will. Yesterday afternoon, he brought home his mid-term report card and his top two subjects were drama and religious studies, so I suspected that the weekend may bring with it some philosophical and theological discussions. Lewis rarely disappoints me.
“There are lots of adults that say,” he began as I put his breakfast on the table in front of him, “that they’re so sorry I’m sick and then they treat me with kid gloves in case I drop dead right in front of them.” I chuckled. I got the impression that this morning’s discussion was going to be an eye-opening dissertation on living and the quality of life.
“What they don’t get is that you have to find personal satisfaction with your life under the conditions you’re living that life if you want to have a life worth living,” he espoused, quickly brushing his curly hair away from his furrowed brow with one hand while picking up his fork in the other. “Being afraid of dying is the flip side of being afraid of living. It doesn’t do anything except steal from your soul.”
“Now, I’m not a fatalist,” he continued. “You know that, mom. And I’m not saying that you can’t change a somewhat pre-determined path your life will take.” He stopped for moment and carefully prepared what he was going to say next. “What I mean by pre-determined is that you’re born and that’s how you get here in the first place and you die and that’s how you leave here and that’s pretty much set in stone as far as I can tell. It’s all the stuff in between being born and being gone that I’m talking about.”
I knew from the way he was talking that my job in this conversation was to listen and say nothing, and so I sat down next to him and listened carefully.
“Just because things are sometimes more difficult than other things doesn’t mean that a person should just give up on living, you know,” he informed me. “And I know it’s important to do what doctors tell you to do when you’re sick. The bottom line is you don’t have to buy into the pathos that sometimes goes along with being sick, right?” He stopped long enough to see if I was following his train of thought.
“You can’t let people doom you just because you aren’t as healthy as most other people,” Lewis pointed out.
“No one really knows how much time they have when they get born. A totally healthy person could step out of their house and have a car careen across the front yard and take them out on their own doorstep. Or a bolt of lightning could come out of a clear blue sky and strike you where you stand.” He leaned forward, as if what he was about to tell me was of paramount importance to the conversation. “I read a news story on Yahoo! news last month about 2 teens who were standing outside their school waiting for the bus to come and they got hit by lightning that way. One guy is pretty much recovered but the other guy is still going through some pretty intense therapy,” my teen informed me. “I really hope that he gets better soon.”
Lewis leaned back in his chair and chugged back what was left of his juice before putting the glass off to one side on the table. He stabbed at his breakfast with his fork as he gathered his thoughts once again.
“What I’m saying is that you should never let someone else tell you how your life is probably going to turn out. No one knows how your life is going to turn out. You don’t even know how your life is going to turn out. All you can do is to live your life and to enjoy the parts that make you happy and to work through the parts that make you angry or sad. And you know what I have to say to people who act like they’re worried I’m going to drop dead right in front of them just because I have an incurable life-threatening disease?”
This was my cue to finally add something to the conversation. “What do you have to say?” I asked.
“If it’s not your time, even a doctor can’t kill you.”
And with that, he pushed back his chair, picked up his breakfast dishes and headed off to the kitchen to put them in the sink to be washed. I smiled. As long as Lewis is on this earth, I’ll never be at a loss to learn something that makes this world a better place to live in.