In a recent New York Times, 36-year-old Paul Kalanithi wrote How Long Have I Got Left about his diagnosis of terminal cancer, and coming to terms with his doctor’s inability to tell him how much time he had left: The reason doctors don’t give patients specific prognoses is not merely because they cannot..[but because] ...the range of what is reasonably possible is so wide….Yes, you will die. But one wants a full pound of certainty, and that is not on offer.
Kalanithi eloquently addresses how he learned to live aware of but NOT knowing, with the gravest of uncertainties:
I remember the moment when my overwhelming uneasiness yielded. Several words from Samuel Beckett…began to repeat in my head, and the seeminly impassable sea of uncertainty parted:
‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’
And then, at some point, I was through.
Kalanthi found a way to LIVE, despite, or because of, a diagnosis of his mortality.
‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’ is a powerful mantra no matter what we’re facing.
Soon after, we found this quote by Stephen Girard that seemed like an utterly hopeful way to deal such a diagnosis, or even just the feeling of not being able to go on:
If I knew I should die tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.