The Game of Life

This is going to be a depressing one, so, like Lemony Snicket in his Series of Unfortunate Events, if you’re expecting something chipper, turn back now.

*deep breath*

Well, let’s do this.

My Aunt passed away last year from Breast Cancer. I warned you. It goes pretty much downhill from here, so this is your last chance. Turn back now.

Okay brave soul, here we go.

She was diagnosed a while back with Breast Cancer. After going through treatment and a mastectomy, she got better. Then the Cancer came back, even more brutal. She bade us goodbye in January last year. And she had pretty much helped raise us. It was a sad moment in our lives.

It still is.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because, this afternoon, I was watching Korean Drama, as I usually do, and one of the characters was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, setting aside the fact that the character is male and he was comically in denial for one of the episodes, my eyes watered. And it took me a while to figure out why. I cried buckets at my aunt’s funeral. It was devastating to hear that she had gone…

Even more so because I never really got to say goodbye. We got to the hospital that sunny Sunday afternoon and before we could see her, we were told that she was gone. That was it. The last time I’d seen her was the Christmas a few weeks before.

I get awkward around grief and honestly, tend to avoid it. I’m caught between not wanting to show pity and accepting the fate of the one who has gone and not showing it – the result being an emotional mess that makes nobody feel any better – so when I got the chance to go see her, I hesitated. I should have gone with my sister that weekend. I should have gone when my father told me she didn’t have a lot of time left – she really didn’t.

I’m not making an excuse for not seeing her, or missing a funeral here and there – I’m really not. I know I should have shown up. I should have been supportive and I wasn’t. And before I know it, realise that I need to get over myself, it’s usually too late and everyone has moved on except me.

And so, just like that, the next time I saw her, she was made up and all dressed in gorgeous white and in her coffin. And that will stay with me for a long time yet.

What must she have been going through after that first diagnosis? Her family isn’t well off and honestly neither is mine. There’s only so much you can do to pitch in. I wasn’t working. I didn’t have money to pay for her treatments or fly her off to some country with better healthcare. Even that wouldn’t have guaranteed that she would have survived.

So, watching this character get diagnosed in episode 3/24 with the same terminal illness that took her away from us, and with me still carrying the guilt and grief from that time, you can understand why I needed a moment to cry all over again.

Even now as I type this, I’m doing an awful job of holding back my sobs.

Somewhere in my genetic chain is a Cancer gene. There is also a Diabetes gene. These are things I can’t necessarily help. Beyond getting checked up in the hopes that nothing is found – and if it is that it is found early – there is very little I can do against the will of God/fate/destiny… whatever you want to call it.

If I went to the doctor, like the character in the drama did, and the doctor looked me square in the face and told me that I had Cancer… how would I react? I’m pretty far overweight, even with my new workout regimen, and that is apparently one of the risk factors. Coupled with my genetics, you can see why I would be worried.

But this is temporary. I’ll forget as soon as something more pleasant and distracting comes my way. I will clutch at it as a dying man, desperate to be torn from despair and distracted from my ultimate destination – the end of my mortality.

It has to happen at some point or other and the older you get, the more often death will appear around you. And that is one of the most depressing thoughts I have ever had. Even those that seem to move on from the loss of a loved one never truly forget. Like me and my aunt, I mourn her still, but not as often as I did in those first days. A memory will come up, I will cry over it and then I will move on, distracted by some movie showing the plight of the living or some ad or a song I like or something.

And just like that, life moves on.

The game of life is one nobody wins in the end. The only consolation is that you can maybe do your best during these hours, these minutes that you have. You have time now. Tell them you love them now. Take that holiday now. Go for your dream now. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Neither is the day after that. All you really have is now. I get it. Tomorrow belongs to God. He can watch over it and me as he is now.

My faith gives me that comfort at least.

“For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”

-Khalil Gibran-

But here we are. We all play the game whether we like it or not. Sinner and saint, creator and destroyer, believer and skeptic, teacher and student, parent and child, faithful and faithless – we all have our purpose in life. We all have our part to play. And that, in the face of all darkness, fear, doubt, trouble and uncertainty, makes me feel a little bit better.

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