You can always handle this one day

I’m torn between two moods today. On the one hand there’s the black despair of what could happen yet in life–the sickness, the pain, the loneliness, the want.
And I know enough about living to know such despair is not without its reasons.
But on the other hand, there’s the view out my morning window. The bright red geraniums, and the cherry red cardinal. The lush fern. The oak and the pine. The coneflowers about to break forth. The black-eyed susans.
And the bright blue Kansas summer sky.
Yet, still, in the midst of all this beauty, I can’t quite shake the black thoughts.
What set me thinking, initially, was a sad and bitter newspaper article about Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
How well we all remember back in 1969 when Dr. Kubler-Ross broke into our consciousness and made us think in new ways about death. The young Swiss-born psychiatrist was only 43 when she penned her classic work, “On Death and Dying.”
In the decades since, she has continued to write and speak with the goal of helping us to understand that dying is an integral part of living. And how incredibly important it is that we be there for one another.
So remarkable was the work of Kubler-Ross that she has been awarded more than 25 honourary doctorates.
But now, tragically, says the New York Times news story, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross herself faces dying with despair, and with an overwhelming sense of disillusionment.
Felled by a stroke at the young age of 69, Dr. Kubler-Ross has in the last two years come to feel that her lifetime of work has made absolutely no difference in how the medical world treats terminally ill patients.
Without question, her experience has been tragic. But still, I can’t help feeling it would be wrong to judge the whole medical world by a sample of one. There are people who have had much different experiences. People who have found incredible tenderness and caring at the time when they needed it most.
But be that as it may, the fact remains that for Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the dying she sought so much to soften has turned bitter. And that’s a terrible disillusionment for all of us.
It’s sad because we want her life to end well. After all, she did so much for us. But even more sad because it threatens the hope we so desperately need. If life could play out this way for the famed Dr. Kubler-Ross, why not for me?
It’s hard to live blind, never knowing what comes next.
Anything could happen. We could develop illnesses, or we could remain well. We could be bungee jumping at age 100, or in a wheelchair at 65. We could end up being helpers, or we could end up needing help.
We could have a car accident next week, or we could live to the middle of the next century.
So how in the world do you plan a life in the face of such devastating uncertainty? How do you live joyfully when all the time disaster could be just around the corner? How do you overcome the tendency to worry?
The classic answer to that question was written 2,000 years ago by a man named Matthew. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
We’re only asked to deal with life one day at a time. And you can always handle this one day.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.

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