Jake was two years younger than I was. We attended the same high school in Hawaii and years later, I learned that he also became a physician and recently completed his pathology residency. Like myself, he pursued further subspeciality training in dermatopathology. I reconnected with him while he was doing his fellowship training.
As we bantered about our shared experiences, he abruptly went off topic and pointed to his neck. “This lymph node has been growing over the past few months.” He began massaging the area with his finger. “Wouldn’t it be funny if this turned out to be a cancer?”
“Dude! Don’t even joke about that!”
He chuckled. “I know, it’s probably just an infection.” A month later, I found out through a mutual friend that a lymph node biopsy revealed a lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells. Although some lymphomas are completely curable, this one was a rare aggressive type. Within two years, in spite of multiple rounds of chemotherapy and additional treatments, he passed away from his disease. He left behind a young wife and child.
I was in my early thirties and this was the first time that I experienced the passing of a friend, who was nearly the same age. I was at the beginning of my career, feeling invulnerable, confident in my abilities and my newly minted credentials and certifications as a surgical pathologist and dermatopathologist. Single and with no family, I only focused upon myself and my career. I had pushed God aside, exalting my abilities rather than recognizing that it was only through His grace and mercy that I was able to live and accomplish anything in my life. The tragic passing of my friend shook me to my core. My friend could be me. My priorities were awry and misguided. God was giving me an opportunity to return to Him.
Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away.
Psalms 90:10 (CSB)
It is prescient that although this verse in the Book of Psalms was written thousands of years ago, when the average life span was about 35 years of age, God looked ahead to the current times and recorded this remarkable statement when the average life of male in North America ranges from 76-80 years! How true that these years pass quickly and are often filled with struggles and sorrows, but it is because of a solemn purpose, ordained by God.
Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.
Psalms 90:12 (CSB)
God, through His grace and mercy, reminded me of the brevity of life many years ago. Now, nearly thirty years later, I feel very vulnerable. I have a family and I feel the aches and pains of a body that is no longer as nimble or flexible as it once was. He continues to remind me to cherish each day I am alive so that I can gain wisdom through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.