Yesterday I attended the memorial service of a woman from my church who recently passed away after a little over 20 years of battling cancer. The stories shared by family and friends had a few common themes, one of them being her love of dessert. My impression was that she did not take any of her time here for granted, and that while she was health-conscious, she also didn’t intend to deny herself a taste of life’s sweetness.
When I heard this, I couldn’t help remembering my mom, and how she, too, had often gone for the food she really wanted. She might not have a lot of it, but on the occasions when she did, she thoroughly enjoyed it. One prime example was soft-serve ice cream, which she sometimes had despite her milk allergy.
She also used to pick raspberries in the summer with the goal of freezing enough for a birthday pie in January. We even brought one into the hospital shortly before she lost her own struggle with cancer, which happened to be the day after her birthday. Although very weak, she was able to take a bite or two, at least enough to taste.
With all of this in mind last night, I appreciated of the synchronicity of getting to the chapter on “Bacon” when reading George Takei’s book Oh Myyy! (There Goes the Internet). In it, he wrote about the decadent attraction of bacon, how so many people respond to it like a siren song, enough so that some restaurants now include bacon as part of dessert. While Takei said that he tries to be relatively healthy, he added, “Life is too short not to order the bacon dessert.” (p. 68)
When I think of my mom, who was just 48 when she died, and the woman from my church, who was in her early 50’s when she got her initial diagnosis, I’m inclined to agree. But I also can’t help thinking what a difficult balancing act this can sometimes be, especially with societal and medical pressures encouraging us to only be focused on health. Given that life is short, the goal seems to be to extend it as long as possible.
But conversely, as one of the other speakers pointed out yesterday, it’s not so much about the amount of time we have as what we do with it. Personally, I have always valued quality over quantity, and I do want to enjoy my time here, however much of it I might have.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to rush out and start eating bacon and desserts exclusively. Realistically, I don’t think I’d enjoy that for very long; I love too many other foods. Instead, on those occasions when I want something but worry a little what others might think (which still happens at times), I’ll remember this, knowing that I want my life, short or long, to include both the savory and the sweet.