12,000 Days

When life and mortality collide

I began this blog with a whole slew of ideas and subjects in mind. Many of them partially started and some just floating around in my mind. When I started this endeavor, the number one piece of advice I received was, “make sure you have lots of content ready to go.” To be honest, I never thought there would ever be a time when I didn’t have content. I mean, I am in recovery from addiction, a type 1 diabetic, a new dad, a therapist, and my mom was fighting pancreatic cancer. How could I possibly run out of things to write about?

Well, we launched the blog, put a few posts out there, and then my mom died. It was as if this abstract thing, pancreatic cancer, suddenly became real and swept through our lives turning everything end over end, kicking up dust, sending us scrambling, forcing everyone to hold their breath, and then just left.

As the dust settled and we all re-oriented to our surroundings and our lives, we discovered that Mom was no longer here. It’s what I imagine a landslide is like. Some unseen-to-the-naked-eye force of nature shifts and creates this great path of destruction that forever alters the landscape of your life and then leaves you to ponder how it is that some things truly cannot be reasoned with, bargained with, or prepared for.

That moment when I knew I would not see my mother again stole the breath from my lungs and the words from my voice. I sat down to write over and over and could only weep or rage. In these last few months, there has been no sufficient assembly of words or articulation of the grief and sorrow I feel for the loss of my mom but there has been a number that occurs to me again and again: 12,000.

Why 12,000?

Soon after losing Mom, my oldest brother and I were consoling one another over a phone call. This particular discussion kept coming back to how strange the normal, every-day stuff feels now. We talked about how hard it is to go to work, how hard it is to leave your kids at home, how hard it is to not get mad at other people upset by trivial day-to-day life challenges and so on. We talked about wanting to run into the mountains and live wild and free, soaking up every moment.

And after we hung up, I thought about the reality. My mom was the healthiest woman I ever knew. Her personal history and mine are wildly different. I smoked and used tobacco for years. I drank heavily and abused drugs. I have had type 1 diabetes for nearly 20 years and I have never not had weight to lose.

In thinking about this reality, I started doing the math: this model of health died at 71. I am almost 40. Without being maudlin, let’s just say that gives me a general idea of how long I have if nothing terrible happens in between. 31 years. 365 days a year. 365 days multiplied by 31 years equals 11,315 days left on this earth that I can reasonably expect. Then I rounded up to 12,000 because 11,315 scares the shit out of me.

The Lesson of 12,000

I am so proud to be my mother’s son. She was a wild thing. A wild thing that never let us see her feel sorry for herself. There will be times when I do feel sorry for myself, but my mother’s standard will not allow that to be a place where I dwell.

I have 12,000 days to be more loving or more fearful.

I have 12,000 days to be mired in regret or fueled by enthusiasm.

I have 12,000 days to hoard money or practice generosity.

I have 12,000 days to get to know Utah and Montana better.

I have 12,000 days to get to know my family better.

I have 12,000 days to know my daughter and discover exactly who she is.

I have 12,000 days to learn how I want to live any grace afforded to me thereafter.

One of the many gifts my mom left me is to wake up each day and ask myself, “if this is one of my only 12,000 days left on earth, am I living it the way I want to?”

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