A Life Without Regret: Embracing the Journey

This past week I had the privilege of being with a long-time friend who is dealing with an incurable cancer. She’s been treated with every chemotherapy available but still the cancer returns.

I consider it a privilege because she included me in the limited time she has as her life is narrowing in. She’s getting things in order–going through her belongings, talking with people from her church about what she’d like for her service–which will help her children when the time comes.

We went out for breakfast. It was hard to see how she’d declined since our last visit; her face now puffy from an increase in steroids, more dependence on her walker, her bald head covered in a baseball cap. I was relieved that she was still able to remember things– even with her declaring herself in a ‘brain fog.’ I told her I’d felt a sort of brain fog with the disorganizing effect of the pandemic.

While I can be quick to jump into conversation, to ask questions, to take the lead– I knew from my experience with cancer twenty-one years ago that it helps to let that person take the lead; they will tell you what they want to talk about. If we can be comfortable with that then we can be less hesitant to be with someone who is seriously ill, someone who is dying.

My friend chose the eggs Benedict and I had the savory breakfast burrito with bacon and avocado; we split a freshly baked cinnamon roll. How nice it was to eat in the spacious patio area, taking our time to drink the rich roast of coffee. We’ve known each other since our kids were in school and now enjoy sharing our grandmother stories. Our conversation alternated between the changes in our grandchildren as they grow older to challenges our kids are facing in their careers to the latest loss she’s experienced due to the growth of the cancer cells.

She talked about how she becomes fatigued–so much sooner now that she’s older with an advanced illness.

“I just have to learn to take breaks and not push too hard,” she said, and recalled all the years she worked full and part-time jobs, as well as maintained a busy schedule of activities.

I assured her that we’d both worked hard and it was time we allowed ourselves to rest when we needed to. She wouldn’t be one to give in too quickly to fatigue or pain; if anyone would push past it–she would. What I felt she needed, which I’d needed, was permission to let go and follow her body’s lead.

After we’d eaten our breakfast and were into our second cup of coffee, she said, “I don’t have regrets. I’m really glad I did all that traveling. It’s good you’ve taken your trips, Connie,” she said, referring to my yearly solo journeys. “I couldn’t travel like that now,” she added.

View of Puget Sound from Mt Constitution– My solo journey to San Juan Islands, WA 2008

We agreed we had memories of those places we’d experienced that would stay with us. They could be called upon at any time to help us through hard times; while going through procedures, waiting on the pain meds to kick in, or waiting for the first light after a long dark night; we had places of refuge stored in our mind’s eye.

The breeze picked up and a slight mist fell. It was time to go; my friend had exhausted her energy and needed a nap. Our visit had been good– real conversation and a delicious meal shared by friends.

After I took her home, driving down the country road with ditch daisies in bloom on the autumn day, I thought about how different my friend’s current challenges are from mine. While she wonders how the cancer will impact her body next, I wonder the outcome of my last date with the guy from the online site. We both look ahead and wonder what’s on our path, and we both know that like all other times in our lives, things can change in an instant.

I think back to her statement, “I don’t have regrets.” How powerful it was to hear her say that. How important it’s been for her to travel to various parts of the world when she was healthy and able to go.

Being with my friend, sharing that meal together, was a time I’ll always remember. It was life, and death, side-by-side and enriched by the other. It was facing fear head on and accepting that beauty and pain exist simultaneously.

Blessings to you in the week that is in front of you–wherever your path leads and whoever you encounter. May you have all you need for the journey.

16 thoughts on “A Life Without Regret: Embracing the Journey

  1. Thank you for sharing this glimpse into your life and relationships. We can all learn so much from each other and “beauty and pain DO exist simultaneously.” Thank you for the reminder during this pink soaked October. Thankful for you and your voice. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Abigail,
      Thank you for reading and your response.
      I think of you often and all that you deal with. I know your beautiful family is an ever-present joy. Yes– we have to embrace beauty and pain at the same time– and at some moments, those seem overwhelming. But ultimately, we make the best of our life and hope to live without regrets. I’m writing this while keeping my one and three-year-old grandsons– so if I added in some gobly-goop words— that’s why and I know you understand.
      Hope you can get the pink out of your head! Replace it with a color that you’re crazy about.
      LOL and love!
      Connie

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice read and very timely for me. I have just returned from a trip to Chicago to visit my sister. She just had surgery and they found Cancer and she will just let her life move along until the end. Your reference to your online dating experiences and the meal with your friend seemed to flow and put many unrelated issues together, to make a common theme. No matter how you ride the horse, you will still need to keep your hands on the reins. Love and Blessing to you.
    John,

    Like

    • Hey John,
      Thanks for reading and responding.
      I’m sorry for what your sister is going through– but glad you could be with her at this important time. Life is both bitter and sweet and yes– we need to keep our hands on the reins– no matter what the course we’re traveling. I believe God will help us stay on the horse and direct us into which way we need to lead the horse on whatever path we’re traveling.
      Blessings to you and your sister,
      Connie

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    • Hey Alberta,
      Thanks so much for reading. Yes, she reminded me and we all need that reminder–’cause we get so caught up in the busyness of life.
      I wish you the best, Alberta and pray for blessings in your life.
      Connie

      Like

    • Hey Harriet,
      Yes, I think it was comforting to be able to share without holding back. I know you’ve been that type of friend and family member, Harriet. You understand how people need someone to be present.
      Blessings to you, Big/Older Sister,
      Connie

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  3. The walk is what you make it no matter the condition of the path. Hope for friend or family that the manner they lived their history prepares them in how to navigate poorly lit paths. Memories we could all have beauties that can’t be counted. Can you, will you draw on them to help you ease your stress and pain? Who takes practice in such for that day when needed? We say great to have so to be able to draw from that memory well….. Who does, who can on there own? How often do we say the right thing to satisfy many ears that truly can’t hear your unsaid that your screaming from with in? I take from the journey you have had with your long time friend. I need much, much practice time. I hope I have not wanted to long before my first practice session.
    My need may be tomorrow.
    This story of kindness, all your stories about all journeys have once again found a way to touch my soul. I should be as kind and as giving as you.
    Thank you…… see you next week….. God willing….. NC 🙂

    Like

    • Dear Friend,
      Thanks for reading and for your honest response. We all need to practice during our lives so when we are going through pain and stress–we can draw on those skills.
      I know you’re kind and giving as well and appreciate those characteristics in you.
      Connie

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  4. So beautifully written, Connie! And to “learn” that it’s okay to give myself permission to rest and not try to go at the same speed I always have…wide open…is gratifying! Sending love and hugs! ♥♥♥

    Like

    • Hey Sandra,
      Thanks so much for reading and for your support.
      Yes– you are kind and giving and sometimes, Sandra–you need to allow those same things for yourself. It’s okay to slow the speed down and just Be.
      Blessings and Hugs!
      Connie

      Like

  5. Another beautiful blog post. Last week I met up with a friend recently diagnosed with an extremely cruel disease, not cancer but a devastating diagnosis, and we had a similar time together. I love these words in your blog ‘we had places of refuge stored in our mind’s eye’ as I have found this so helpful when I’ve been going through some of the toughest times and I know it will help my friend as she has had some amazing trips over the last decade and is away in the South of France right now near the Italian border making amazing memories while she can. These will help her and knowing that helps me too. Thank you for the reminder! X

    Like

    • Hey Julia,
      Thanks so much for reading and for your generous response. I’m so glad you were with your friend and were the listening ears she needed. How wonderful that she’s off forming great memories right now. We all need to take advantage of those opportunities and not put off living.
      Best to you, Julia for living a full and wonderful life without Regrets.
      Connie

      Liked by 1 person

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