At mass on Sunday, Father Williams asked the following question: If you only had one week left to live, would you continue with your everyday life? Would you pay the bills, go to class, write a paper?
I would. I couldn’t bear to die knowing I hadn’t finished my paper, which I would automatically get an A on because I was dead. I would want life to continue as normal, so that when I did die, I would know that I had left nothing incomplete. I wouldn’t have any regrets. Sure, I’d probably cry more than usual, and I’d spend a fair amount of time writing thank you letters, and I’d probably read Little Women and watch “Friends” and plan my funeral-daisies and sunshine absolutely included. I probably wouldn’t sleep as much either. But I’d probably keep the knowledge that I was going to die in a week to myself, too. I wouldn’t want people treating me any differently than usual. I wouldn’t want them to cry every time they saw me or ask “How are you doing today?” with that note of all-knowingness and sympathy. I’d want to argue with them, laugh with them, spend the remainder of my life with them in as normal a fashion as possible. In short, I’d want to live. I’d want to live the rest of my life.
Now, I think it’s time for a disclaimer. I do not plan on going anywhere. I want to go out like my neighbor, Mrs. Raulston, who died at the age of 91 of a stroke…while she was at a Mardi Gras party. Every day I make like Anne Frank, who wrote “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” If Anne Frank can think that in the middle of the Holocaust, then I can certainly think it in the middle of my wonderful life. It’s better than anything Frank Capra could come up with.
One of my favorite movies is “Stranger than Fiction”. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s Will Ferrell’s best, plus Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Maggie Gyllenhaal. It’s such a beautiful movie. It asks about the worth of a person’s life and why someone should be allowed to live. It discusses all the things that make our lives beautiful. The main character, Harold Crick, discovers that the voice in his head narrating his life is in fact an author who is planning to kill off her character…Harold Crick. Upon seeking the assistance of a professor of literature, who informs him he can do whatever he wants with the rest of his life, however long it proves to be.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Hell, Harold, you could just eat nothing but pancakes if you wanted.
Harold Crick: What is wrong with you? Hey, I don’t want to eat nothing but pancakes, I want to live! I mean, who in their right mind in a choice between pancakes and living chooses pancakes?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Harold, if you pause to think, you’d realize that that answer is inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led… and, of course, the quality of the pancakes.
It’s true. We can do whatever we want with our lives. We can even have our pancakes and eat them too. (Corny, very corny.) How we spend our days is how we spend our lives, and I want to spend mine being the best me I can be. I want to celebrate every single day. Dr. Ukulele says that when he wakes up every morning, he thinks “I’m alive! I get another day!” I’d like to think that I can do the same thing every morning, no matter how many mornings there are. Life is meant to be lived, and I intend to live it wholeheartedly. As Auntie Mame says, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” As long as there are pancakes, I don’t intend to go hungry.
P.S. I’d love to know how you would answer the question. Let me know, would you?
Kay Eiffel: As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.