The Will to Live
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friederich Nietzche
Hospital beds are filled with people whose bodies are connected to machinery that keeps hearts pumping, lungs expanding and contracting, tubes providing nourishment and draining excess fluids. These are external forces offering life sustaining activity. It may very well be, that in combination with an intangible… the will to live keeps them from crossing over the line between this life and the next.
In recent conversation with a friend, she posed the question: “What do you think gives people the will to live when they are in chronic pain or when faced with serious illness?” This came in the midst of the hospitalization of two friends. One is in an ICU, following open heart surgery and the other is receiving major doses of chemotherapy and radiation for metastatic cancer. Both have made it clear that they although they know death is one possibility, they have no conscious intention of “leaving the building” at this time.
Is it fear of death or love of life that helps us to remain incarnate?
When visiting the second friend a few days ago and then today, she related that she wants the hospital staff who have been caring for her to “love my life as much as I do.” She was propped in bed, wearing pretty pink floral pajamas. Her hair was combed and she had a sparkly headband at the ready, should it become unruly. At the foot of her bed was a laptop computer. Although the nurses sometimes chided her for working when she should be resting, she retorted, “What if I live? I will have all this work to catch up on when I get home.” She also made it clear to us that if she was to die, she wanted to be sure her co-workers knew what needed to be done in her absence.
Two friends and I visited and offered her Reiki. We get the strong sense that she is there to teach the staff how to work with patients who don’t fit the typical mold. She looks far better than they expect given the prognosis and what they view as the norm. Decked out in Hello Kitty jammies with strawberries on them, newly showered, her hair being brushed by her wife, sense of humor intact big time. She joked about many things. Then she mentioned this song, feeling that she was ready to play centerfield. I pulled it up on my phone and all of us in the room bopped around to it, including her. I made a sign to put up on her bulletin board that reminded staff that there was absolutely no place for negativity in that room; only love, only healing intention. She said that she thought she was there to give the staff hope; not the other way around.
The other friend who had the cardiac surgery and is still receiving dialysis and is breathing via a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine that is predominately used by people with sleep apnea, has a strong desire to continue on this side of the veil. He has a wife and many friends who are praying for his recovery. The strong support system, he has acknowledged, has helped greatly.
What Gives Life Meaning?