Thursday, September 17, 2009

Patrick Swayze and the Plight of the Terminally Ill

A truly amazing actor and human being passed away on Monday. Patrick Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. But, you know that already. We all loved the man, we loved the actor, we loved his roles. We loved the way that he carried on his personal life, not leaping from marriage to marriage or woman to woman. He had class and scruples. He was a rarity in the world of movies and television. He fought the good fight for almost two years against a demon that rarely loses.

I was not surprised at the reports that he was flooded with cards, well wishes, and prayers from fans all over the world. I’m certain that support helped fuel the intensity of his fight against the disease. And of course he had the unfailing devotion of his wife and close friends. Unfortunately, this is not case for most people suffering from terminal illnesses.

When someone is first diagnosed with a long-term or terminal illness, we send cards and flowers. We stop to visit. Then we do nothing. We stop sending cards; we don’t go to visit because we don’t know what to say or do. The ill person’s predicament makes us quite uncomfortable. With each passing day they become more isolated from everyone with the exception of immediate family and a few medical professionals, as the rest of the world, namely us, avoids them as though death itself is something contagious.

After our initial attempts, we subconsciously create excuses to avoid contact with that person. Those excuses run the gamut from “I’m too busy” or “I don’t want to impose” to “I’ll stop by next week when I have time.” Inevitably, we never do stop by. Days turn into weeks or months, and that acquaintance eventually passes on. We’re left with mixed feelings of relief (from the stress the act of avoiding caused us) and remorse (because we avoided and now we feel guilt because it’s too late).

How would you feel, if you were the ill person? Think of how much better it would be to leave this world with the love and support of all your friends and acquaintances, like Patrick Swayze did. Granted, the chances of having hundreds of thousands of adoring fans supporting you is pretty small, but it would be really wonderful to know that your friends and acquaintances were not ignoring you during your last and most precious days on earth.

It's something to think about!