A few days ago, my forty-five-year-old sister-in-law died at 3:52 am, with cancer ravaging her body. She and my brother-in-law were best friends, boon companions and soul mates. My sister-in-law leaves behind a bewildered husband and three children. Twelve weeks ago, she was a happy woman with no cares, a great family and a wonderful husband. Today she is dead.
This is not an uncommon story, as one in three of us in Canada will be affected by cancer in some form or another in our lives. What is uncommon is that by and large we do not seem, as human beings, to learn anything from this type of tragedy.
What I mean by that is we will pause, we will be sad, we will be supportive of those that have suffered a loss, and then very shortly afterwards, we will be back living our lives the way we lived them prior to the tragedy.
I have had acquaintances, relatives and others pass away, or have a traumatic incident in their lives, and I have said on more than one occasion “this is a wake-up call, I need to step back, I need to smell the roses!”
Time and time again when I’ve said that, I have tried to smell the roses, but within a month I am back to the crazy schedule, focused on work and I keep forgetting what I should have learned.
My sister-in-law was a bubbly, friendly, warm person who loved life and when she was faced with this inevitable result, she was angry, her husband was angry, I must say I was angry. Angry because how could this be happening to such a wonderful person, how could things be so unfair, how could this be happening to such a wonderful person?
I am hoping that my anger can be turned into something positive. A positive would be to embrace not being defined by my work, not saying “well I can’t do this because I need to be in the office on the weekend”, not being in a city for business and saying “well I should take a couple of hours to see an old friend but oh no, I am too busy”, not keeping in touch with people that I like and enjoy sharing time with, and the list goes on and on.
I am sharing this because I think it is a common story and a common dilemma.
Once again I am making a New Year’s-type resolution and saying that I am going to smell the roses. What if I was told that it is likely that in 12 weeks from now I would be dead. It would be impossible in 12 weeks to do the things that I thought I should have done, see the people I should have seen, share the love I should have shared and of course, I would be angry and there would be huge regrets.
So I’m going to spend more time with my daughters, more time with my grandchildren, more time with my wife, it won’t be easy for me and it will not be easy for you, because we live our lives at a thousand miles an hour but in the end, what else do we have that is really important? It’s our spouses, our children, those that we love and cherish, those that are good friends and all those that we care about. That is what is important and that is what I must learn to make important and so do we all!
John Hoyles, CEO Canadian Bar Association