[Viewpoint] Diagnosis a reminder life is preciousThere are moments in life that have the power to change you, affect you, alter you and lead you down a new path. Sometimes the moment happened long ago, but the memory of it persists until you accept it and let it guide your way. Sometimes you observe those moments in the lives of the people close to you. Sometimes you realize the power of the moment and embrace it in the moment and carry the lesson with you. And sometimes these moments collide and connect to bring new, fresh meaning and direction to life.
Two weeks ago my friend Ben here in Korea turned 40. A few days later he decided to get a comprehensive medical exam. These kinds of exams are relatively common for most office workers in Korea, but such comprehensive checkups are not common at all in America. Ben figured he was 40, in Korea and the opportunity was available, so he might as well get checked out, just for peace of mind.
We were all surprised to hear that they found a tumor in his stomach, another one in his kidney and a high white blood cell count. The outlook is not good.
Ben loves life. He loves the outdoors. He loves hiking, running, biking and sky diving. He’s fit, and he’s active. Forty used to sound so old. Now, 40 is my friend. Ben is not the kind of guy who gets tumors. But really, who is?
With this news, Ben decided to immediately go back to the States for a thorough checkup, to receive treatment and be with his family. We all got together for a little farewell the night before he left. The evening was not as awkward or depressing as you might expect it to be when sending a friend off into an uncertain future. Ben was having a blast and living in the moment. He was truly happy to have the chance to have another normal evening of good conversation, good laughs and good music with good friends. It might have been the last time we were ever going to see each other, but he wasn’t going to let a couple of tumors spoil the moment.
His optimistic reaction was inspiring. We all know that our time is limited and could end at any minute. Why aren’t we all more appreciative and protective of every minute of every day that we have left? Each minute is a gift. We never know when the next year, the next hour or the next minute will be our last.
As I ponder Ben’s situation and the implications of one’s attitude on a life well lived, a memory from my youth keeps revisiting me. Neither of my parents drink alcohol. It’s not against their religion and they aren’t allergic, they just don’t drink. I asked my dad about this and he just answered simply, “Life is precious.”
That simple scene with my dad has played over many times in my mind since then and it is especially poignant now. My dad has had it all figured out for a long time. It’s not just the not drinking. It’s the way he looks at life. He knows the value of life. Just like Ben.
When you’re young, you’re invincible. You take unnecessary risks. You tempt fate. You don’t think about consequences. Somehow, as you mature, your priorities change. Maybe a health scare serves as the catalyst. Or maybe it’s a gradual and organic change.
Either way, I feel very lucky to have come to this realization over the past few years. Every day I’m overflowing with love for my life and I think I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for all the blessings I’ve got. Then I wake up to live another beautiful day and my gratitude just multiplies exponentially.
And I find that my dad’s words resonate through my head more and more often. “Life is precious. Life is precious.” I get up early and run with friends on the trails on Namsan in the morning. I do yoga on my lunch break. I cook healthy meals for my boyfriend and our friends in our cozy kitchen in the evenings. I only drink alcohol in limited quantities. I tell my friends and family how much I love them every chance I get. Life has become more precious to me as time goes by and I’m more cautious and aware and grateful every day.
We have to be grateful every day. We have to surround ourselves with people who support us and make us happy. We should pursue our dreams and not settle for less. We must not waste a second feeling guilty, angry or pessimistic. We are alive. That is all there is.
Please keep Ben in your thoughts and prayers. And enjoy and embrace your precious life.
*The author is the foreign client relationship manager at the Shinhan Bank Seoul Global Center.
By Michelle Farnsworth