My friend Dale Wolf has been gone for almost six years, but it seems like yesterday that we lost her to breast cancer.
Never in my life have I met a person so full of life as Dale. Today, March 4th, is her birthday. She always said that she was born on the only day that gave an order — March Forth — and she did.
She was a remarkable person who kept her legions of fans posted on her “playful romp” (her words) through cancer via Caring Bridge. This is the year that I find a publisher for her posts, or I publish them myself. She entrusted me with the task and it will happen. Here is her last post:
December 31, 2004
Can you believe it? I figured out how to send emails from the great beyond! It’s pretty easy…don’t know why more people don’t do it.
Since most people are not comfortable discussing death, particularly the specific death of someone you know and are probably very fond of (i.e., ME) I thought I’d do it now. I gotta love the one-sidedness of email, which affords me the opportunity to go on and on and on about whatever I want!
So, where was I? Oh yeah, that death thing. If you were wondering, I wasn’t afraid to die. While I have all along feared the journey, and it’s likely that it DID leave a bit to be desired, the ultimate destination was not frightening to me. Though my viewpoint was more based on “hope” than “knowledge,” it still comforted me. And for you people who thought “the truth”—or should I say “your truth”—is the only way, I now know you were wrong! I’ve believed for awhile that — beautiful things and joyous moments aside — there are too many horrendous things that happen in this world to think that our lives on earth (my past, your current) is the “ultimate” destination.
My “light bulb” moment was in July 1999, a year after my initial cancer diagnosis and almost a year before my recurrence. I was volunteering for the Minnesota to Wisconsin AIDS Ride at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Sandwich boards with inspirational quotations were placed around the large room where the bicyclists checked in. One sign near the area where I was working read: “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey; we are spiritual beings on a human journey.” It wasn’t like a lightening bolt hit me, but it just seemed so darned logical. Why SHOULD our human journey be THE journey? The only justification to me for all the suffering on earth (and I’m not talking about mine) is that there is someplace better than this; that there’s a “next place” where we leave misery and pain behind.
But like I already said, this belief is based on hope, not knowledge, so it’s also occurred to me that I might be wrong. None of us really truly know what happens to us next. But I am experiencing a bit of glee that I found out before you did! I have to make everything a competition, don’t I?
I’ve been trying to remember my childhood…how I thought my life would turn out. I can’t really recall that I had specific hopes and dreams. I can’t say whether or not things turned out as expected, because I don’t really know what I expected. But for those of you whose life turned out just as you planned…I hope you appreciate how lucky you are. Give thanks every day for what you have. Cut out the whining. If you aren’t whining, don’t start! When I started writing this email I didn’t have a long list of lessons I wanted you all to take to heart now that I’m gone. But as my treatments lingered on and my cancer remained stable, I spent a lot of timing thinking about the “imprint” I would leave behind. What began as a list of one lesson, has blossomed to several.
The first one I’ve been trying to teach to people for a long time now, and it’s not working very well. I’m going to try one last time via email from the great (I do hope great) beyond. I say “via email,” because if I have the opportunity to haunt you, I will.
My last lesson is the “Dale” version of “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Put things in perspective. Think about what’s really important, and stop worrying and whining about the rest. Here are some things that in the big scheme of things are not that important:
You don’t like your boss. You don’t like your job. Stop complaining. Do something to change things. Realize that there are people just like you at other companies complaining about the exact same things.
A friend hasn’t returned your phone call. Get over it. Call them back. Calling friends shouldn’t be a game that involves scorekeeping.
And speaking of scorekeeping…don’t. It’s not about whose turn it is. Life ain’t fair.
Stop complaining about how busy or not busy you are. Accept that your life is probably the way it is due to choices you’ve made, Acknowledge this or make new choices.
There are worse things than being 10 pounds overweight.
People don’t pay as close attention to you as you think they do.
If the dog eats the strudel, it’s not a real crisis. It’s only strudel.