#196 Living with dying

People who know they are dying and still live joyfully have a lot to teach us about living and about embracing whatever is coming. Lee Lipsenthal was one of those. In July 2009 the busy medical director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. That’s a cancer with a 10% survival rate.

Lipsenthal went through eight months of chemotherapy and radiation. The next year he lived cancer free. He slowed down his busy teaching and travel schedule. He meditated, spent time with his family, loved his wife. He made plans to do a book tour for Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day as If It Were Your Last, which was to be published in November 2011.

On August 2, a little less than two months before his death, Lipsenthal wrote “Dying Awake” for Huffington Post. I’d like to have known the man who could write:

If I have eight months to live, there is a lot of fun to be had. Once I am too sick or tired, I can watch movies, read books and have friends over. When I become too weak for that, I can enjoy the peace of our sweet home and the hugs of my wife. Not a bad way to spend the rest of my life.

My mantra of “it is what it is” means more to me now than ever. Regretting anything left undone would be a waste of time and energy. I will enjoy what is left.

My meditation practice has eliminated my fear of dying, opening me up to what might come after death (I know I can’t possibly know until it happens) and allowing me to just be there for the ride. I am at peace: awake and aware. So, here I am, dying awake.

He died before the book was released, but Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day as If It Were Your Last was ready for his memorial service. Though his passing leaves a huge hole in the lives of those who loved him, his manner of dying is a gift to us all.

We don’t need to wait until illness or accident reminds us of our mortality. We can live every day with gratitude and joy.

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