November 30 2009, 1:06 PM
I was reading a book last night in which the narrator said something like, “Each day is someone’s first and someone’s last, but all those in between become just another day.” To which I thought: “What complete B.S. — surely it’s all the ones in between that count?”
Then, since my birthday is this week, I lay there in bed thinking about first days and last days. My first day was 38 years ago… When will my last day be? And that’s when the thought popped into my mind: “Wow, we should really celebrate my birthday this year because I may not have very many birthdays left.”
Um, whoa there. I just got fantastic results on my latest CT scans. Where did this party-crashing thought come from? From whence did this completely uninvited and so out of step with my little tango with cancer, icky thought emerge? This really, totally depressing, totally miserable little thought.
I mean — sick or not, old or young — of course it’s natural for people to entertain thoughts of their own demise from time to time. I myself have made a lifelong game of selecting my own funeral music. (‘She’s Gone’, by Hall & Oates, is the current frontrunner.) But this thought of having only a few birthdays left was just so… Melodramatic? Woeful? And yet so powerful.
At that moment my husband came in to the room, saw my face and immediately took me in his arms and asked me what was wrong. Through the tears that ensued, I managed to mumble the may-not-have-many-left thing into his shoulder. “Mais non!” He said, squeezing the bejeezus out of me (did I mention he’s French? and absolutely dashing, not that it’s relevant?) “What could make you think such a thing? You know that you will have as many birthdays as I know I will have — nobody can say how many they have left! Non! Those stupid spots are shrinking and that’s that!”
And, actually, a few sniffles later, that was that, because he has a way of comforting me and making me laugh with his stubborn refusal to let anything scare me so long as he can help it. He has a conviction that is deep and strong and it says “you are going to live” — and I hear it every time. He also has a whole sort of talk-to-the-hand thing that he does with the dark thoughts and it works like magic to quell my fears. At least it did this time. And probably will again next time, and the time after that.
So, I’ll be celebrating this birthday – of course I will, I love birthdays, mine or anyone else’s (when I remember them!)
First days, last days… they matter too. But it’s all the ones in between that shape a life.
And yes, maybe they’re numbered, but they’re numbered for everyone. All the more reason to enjoy them. Yesterday was just another in-between day, and look what happened: I read a book, got freaked out, and then wound up falling in love with my husband all over again. Or remembering why I fell in the first place.
So let’s hear it for in-between days, however many or few of them there may be, and for those we spend them with.