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Voice: Changing in a twinkling of an eye

January 23, 2002

We think of Jan. 1 as a time for changing ourselves or our lives. But change can come at any time.

Much has been written about how the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center changed many lives in the proverbial "twinkling of an eye."

That moment of sudden, irreversible change can come to any of us, at any time.

My "twinkling of an eye" experience, which changed my world as I knew it, came on Jan. 15, 2000. I went to sleep at 3 a.m., feeling as well as I ever do. At 6 a.m. I woke literally screaming with excruciating back pains. Two of my upper vertebrae had collapsed spontaneously, making a hunch-back of me and creating breathing problems galore — and the need for a respirator.

I was told I have multiple myeloma, a terminal cancer of the blood in the bone marrow.

I knew that time's chariot was nipping at my heels and that at 80, I couldn't expect to live forever.

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The diagnosis of multiple myeloma caused me to evaluate my entire life.

I found that I had wasted many precious hours in living in the past and worrying about the future. I knew I have no more time to waste. So I started living each day as if it were my last.

A poet has written about "memories that bless and burn." If I do any backward looking, it is toward the memories that bless (let memories that burn become dead ashes!)

But mostly I, "Look unto this day/for it is the very life of life."

No one can promise any of us a tomorrow, so it behooves all of us to live zestfully and productively in the present.

We have not time enough to be embittered or to hold grudges. We only have time enough to "Love that well which we must leave ere long."

I have had a much happier and far more productive life since my "twinkling of an eye" experience than I ever did before. True, I am bound to my ejector chair (and wheelchair when I go out) — but I can still use my mind creatively. I can still learn something new each day. And I've learned "in whatsoever state I am there with to be content."

Time was when I yearned for a more prosperous life. I rebelled against being "a nobody." I wanted good health and the comforts of life that other people take for granted.

But this was not to be my destiny. I had to gain whatever wisdom I have through suffering and sorrow, which refine the spirit and teach us compassion.

So whenever I become slightly discontented with my lot in life, I consider the butterfly, which could never soar if it did not gain strength in struggling to get out of its chrysalis.

There is no joy in winning when one has not fought the good fight. The glory is not in the victory, but in the struggle which goes into archiving it.

Please remember this if/when you have a "twinkling of the eye" life-changing experience.

MERRY HARRIS

El Centro

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