Dearest Rachel –
There is a story about the noted French philosopher and wit François-Marie Arouet – better known by his nom de plume of Voltaire – who, among many other things, was well-known for an obsession with coffee, drinking as many as 50 cups in a single day (at a time when the stuff was an exorbitant luxury, especially in those quantities. Although, when you check the prices at Starbucks, maybe things haven’t changed so much). A friend of his warned him that drinking that much was a “slow poison.”
I picture the irreverent old wit staring almost quizzically for a moment at his friend, before turning back to his cup, taking a theatrically loud sssslurp, and with a satisfied smirk, uttering the immortal rejoinder, “So who’s in a hurry?”
You might wonder why I would talk to you about coffee, when I’m fully aware how much you hated the stuff, comparing it to the taste of cigarettes (how you would recognize that flavor, I never thought to ask you). Well, for one, I always like a good story like that, and secondly, don’t worry, I’ve not planned anything more about coffee for the rest of this letter. So feel free to rinse your mouth out with orange flavored toothpaste (never mint, if you could help it) before proceeding.
No, the thought was more along the lines of what Voltaire’s friend expressed to him: that he was slowly destroying himself with his habit. Emphasis on slowly, as Voltaire lived to be eighty-three – given the life expectancy of the day, the fellow more than broke even. Why, that’s a pretty decent lifespan in this day and age, let alone his own.
And you remember that I share a fair amount of the old sage’s opinions on self-destructive habits. I have no idea who I might be quoting, or at least paraphrasing, but you’d heard me say all too many times that giving up vices like eating too much or not exercising enough and the like didn’t so much allow you to live longer, as much as it made your life feel that much longer (since you weren’t enjoying yourself).
So what got me to thinking about that today? Oh, nothing much. Just me staring at my morning regimen of pills, and wondering why I’m bothering with any of them. This one for blood pressure (although didn’t that go down because I finally left that awful job?), that one to stave off a heart attack, another one to supplement lack of vitamin D due to limited exposure to sunlight, and yet another for that tennis elbow that for whatever reason hasn’t completely gone away.
And I find myself wondering if it’s even worth it to keep this up.
Look, don’t get me wrong (I tell you that a lot these days, don’t I?). Like Voltaire, I’m in no hurry. There is still so much to do and see and even (if the Lord would let me) enjoy on this earth, and should He grant me my full twenty years – or bless me with another thirty – how does that compare against eternity when it finally overtakes me?
And while, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice – and more importantly, resurrection, which we just celebrated the other day – I could look this monster in the face:
and tell him, flat out, “No,” I have to admit, I’m not looking forward to the process. There are very few pleasant ways to leave this planet – yours at least had the virtue of being quick, if painful for those few hours (although whether you were aware of any of it, I’ll never know) – so imperceptibly slow seems the best way for now.
The question then becomes whether it’s worth it to prolong things here or not. Why deal with all these pills for the rest of my life? Why go through with the ordeal of an anal probe without at least the chance of meeting aliens? Why, to sum it up, go through the unpleasant rigor of tending to health that will eventually run down anyway, and merely delay our reunion?
I suppose I should end my letters with some kind of affirmation of life, answering and refuting the questions I bring up as I write them to you. The thing is, yes, I’m still going to take those pills this morning, and the next, and the next… but I still have these questions. And I don’t have a particularly good answer for them. It’s kind of a poor way to end a letter, but that’s how life is. Unlike television programs, the story doesn’t always end wrapped up in a neat little bow at the ‘end;’ you don’t wind up with a satisfactory answer by the time today’s credits roll.
And you just have to go on living for now.
And find some other means of getting your caffeine fix for the day.
We’ll talk later, honey. Love you.