Life Before Death

“I wonder if it hurts to die?” I asked myself as the doctor kept talking to me. What did he expect? I’m dying here. It’s a little question I am forced to consider. I have something called Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) it’s a rare brain disease, which includes the symptoms of dementia, memory loss, personality changes and hallucinations. This is then accompanied by physical problems such as speech impairment, jerky movements, balance and coordination dysfunction, and other symptoms. There are too many to remember. This disease supposedly gives me about six months to live from once I begin to show signs of the symptoms, which just isn’t very long.

When I knew something was seriously wrong it had already been a month from when I started to forget things. It had gotten so severe that I had already forgotten my brother’s name. I knew it was not because of aging. I’m only twenty-three years old. I’m active, eat healthy, and I do not and will not ever smoke. There’s only so much one can fulfill in twenty-three years. I haven’t finished college, or left the east side of the United States. In all honesty I haven’t even been on a roller coaster, and I’ve always wanted to ride on one. What are you supposed to do when you know you’re about to die? I have only six months to live, minus two months considering time already gone by and that the symptoms will get worse and the doctor tells me I will be hospitalized towards the end.

“Laura, Laura” the Doctor interrupted me.

“Sorry. Um, so there’s nothing you could do to, fix it?” I said.

“No I’m so sorry. We have depression groups to help you deal with this. Is there anyone that can help you through this?”

“What? Oh yes there’s my brother but he’s currently in, in”

“It’s okay honey, take your time”

I hated this. Not the fact that I’m dying (yes of course I did hate that). What I mean is that I hated the doctor calling me honey like I’m some poor little girl who lost her favorite toy. I don’t need sweet names and sad looks to help me come to grips with what I’m dealing with. I don’t really need help. I’m not, depressed. I’m just in shock. I’ve come to a realization that I’ve got four months to live and I’m not going to ruin it with depression groups and moping around my house watching television and wasting my time with happy-ending movies and sitcoms.

In that moment, as I was telling my doctor about my brother’s world travels with his wife, I decided I am going to live every day to fullest. Yes, that might sound a bit cliché. But, I’m dying in less than six months and I’m going to live life to the fullest. So, I told the doctor goodbye, and assured him that I’d be back for my weekly checkups.

I left the doctor’s office and walked back to my house. Now I know for sure walking won’t kill me. I walked into the driveway of the house my parents left for me. I was thinking about my life the whole way. I was trying to remember all the significant moments (none since the loss of my parents). In that moment I said to myself: “I haven’t done one damn thing in my life and I have four months to change that.” I went inside and took out a piece of paper and pen. At the top of the page, I wrote out in bold and underlined: Life Before Death. Then, below that I wrote:

1. Travel to another country

2. Buy a pet

3.Redecorate my House (did that last year)

4. Repaint my house

5. Ride a roller coaster

Reading back my list, I frowned. What kind of list was this? Five, no, four things and they weren’t good. I’ve got four months and I’m supposed to travel to another country and repaint my house. I decided to take another walk to clear my mind. I entered a coffee shop, and the moment I walked in I wanted to sprint out. My thirty-year-old brother sat there looking the same as the last time I saw him. A normal sister wouldn’t want to run away from her own brother. But, when your brother tells you it was your fault your parents died and leaves to go travel the world, you don’t really have the best relationship. Frozen in place, I heard two words: “Hi Laura.”


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