In 2009, my eldest daughter died after succumbing to complications of B-cell lymphoma. Whenever we speak or write about what happened, we frequently mention that she “lost the battle” with lymphoma. It was indeed a battle, and she endured so much pain and suffering for those six months she was getting aggressive chemotherapy to treat the aggressive B-cell lymphoma.
Almost every day, I am witness to one of my critically ill patients “losing the battle” with their critical illness. This was especially true in the Spring and Summer of 2020, where we witnessed patient after patient “losing the battle” with COVID-19. It is part and parcel of my job, and when I recognize that my patient will more than likely “lose the battle” with their illness, it then becomes my job to try and minimize their suffering as much as possible, along with helping the family minimize their grief as much as possible.
While it may be uncomfortable to reflect upon, it is nevertheless inevitable that all of us – every single one of us – will, one day, “lose the battle” with some sort of illness, condition, or accident. One day, someone will say that we will have “lost the battle” with this or that. That should not be our main concern. The main question be this: will we have won the war?
The human condition is full of battles: battles against its hypocrisies, battles against its vicissitudes, battles against its difficulties, battles against its contradictions. There are also battles against personal moral struggles and physical illnesses. All of those battles constitute the overall war, and it is one that is waged each and every day by each and every person.
If we can conquer the hypocrisies, vicissitudes, difficulties, and contradictions of the human condition; if we can conquer our personal moral struggles, then we will have won the war, even if we lose a battle against a physical illness, condition, or accident. And, to me at least, winning the war is much more important in the overall scheme of things. The reward of winning the war, to me at least, is eternal, and that is my ultimate goal in life.
Now, some of the battles against illness can be quite brutal. I do not dismiss them in the least. My daughter suffered tremendously in the six months she received chemotherapy before she died. Almost every day, I witness the brutality of critical illness and what it can do to the human body and human psyche. Sometimes, many times, “winning the battle” against critical illness can actually be worse than death itself. This was especially true with COVID-19. I pray none of us suffers the casualties of a particularly difficult battle with illness.
At the same time, if we lose the war of the human condition, the consequences can be devastating and eternal in nature. That must be avoided – in my belief, at least – at all costs.
As the years have passed since my daughter’s death, my goal has been singular: put my head down and live a life of righteousness to the best of my ability. That way, when I lift my head up, I will see the Face of the Lord and once again see the smiling face of my daughter. I am trying, to the best of my ability, to win the war of the human condition, with the help of the Precious Beloved.
I pray that I am ultimately successful. I pray that, one day, people will say about me that I “lost the battle” but ultimately won the war.