What do you do when there is everything to lose and nothing you can do about it? When there are no alternatives that will affect the outcome in your favor, and you will lose, and you will lose it all, and the ones you love will lose it all — including the loss of the one you love most?
You do nothing.
And you do it with the ones you love.
You do nothing with the one you are about to lose.
You suffer with them, though you cannot fully share in that suffering, because some of that suffering is physical, and some of it is because the relationships are different and all of it together is too visceral to bear.
You remain with them because it is your only alternative as the one they love most.
Cancer was the no-win scenario for Angi four years ago. Her family and friends, all who loved her and knew of her condition, did what they could to gather close; to suffer with; and finally to say goodbye.
Her cancer was the no-win scenario for us as well.
But losing her was not the tragedy it could have been, if she hadn’t packed so much life into the years she lived — especially those last ten years, when she had been given a glimpse ahead. That cancer scare, I believe, gave her what she needed to live out the rest of her life on her own terms.
At her memorial services in Little Rock and later at WCU in Cullowhee, I said that Angi wanted more than anything else to be as much like Jesus of Nazareth as she could possibly be.
This year, as I remember her, it occurs to me that she was given the rare opportunity to imitate Him in a rather unique way.
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. ~ Luke 9:51
Not everyone has a sense for what the future holds for them. Not everyone gets a heads-up that the scenario ahead is of the no-win variety.
And not everyone who does would walk right into it anyway, just as if the lack of alternatives was simply the way things are.
The other thing that occurs to me is that — even knowing the stories of people who have had that glimpse — it’s not like we don’t all know what’s coming.
We may not like to face or acknowledge it or dwell on it long, but the same no-win scenario is ahead for each of us. The details will be different, for sure – the whens, hows, how longs, how much and the whys – but the outcome will always be the same.
Yet we all have alternatives now.
We can pack in as much life during our time remaining as we can.
We can surround ourselves with those we love and who love us.
We can walk right into the future knowing it is certain and that only the details are not.
There’s a good chance that I will never stop learning from my beloved Angi.
But right now, this is the lesson that is the most real and precious of all.