At some point in our lives, we may experience unbearable pain, so unbearable that we’d welcome death to end it all. Many had succumbed, and many more will give in, to this temptation.
Around two years into my law practice, I experienced physical pain that made me rethink my neat concept of the world. It started in the evening after I finished eating a pack of Cheerios. Thinking it was indigestion, I took some antacid and waited, but the pain got worse (the doctor later said it was acute chronic chole-something). By the time I got to the hospital at 2 in the morning, the pain was so intense I actually wanted to die (thank God, He didn’t listen). When pain is prolonged and getting more intense, like torture, death presents itself as a welcome ally.
At that moment, I seriously questioned my choice of career. My knowledge about the law and legal procedures were utterly useless. I can’t go to court and ask for a temporary restraining order or an injunction to stop the pain, even for a moment. I can’t post bail to free myself from the pain. Heck, I can’t even ask for a postponement!
Living alone in a condominium, I brought myself to the hospital. Being alone was not a big deal; being helpless was. I didn’t know how to stop the pain. I didn’t even know what’s wrong with me.
So, there I was, a patient trying to patiently wait for the doctor, moaning by my lonesome, trying to conjure happy thoughts to fight the pain (as they say, it’s all in the mind). I wasn’t able to think of happy thoughts (even Peter Pan had a hard time thinking of happy thoughts, and he was not in pain), but I experienced that whole-life-flashing-before-your-eyes phenomenon, or something like it.
It was a weird feeling – the past streaming through my mind. I realized life is so fragile and short; I have to make every second count. I realized how scary it is to be old, when one’s mind is active yet the body is too weak. I realized how true it is that no dying man (well, I felt I was dying anyway) ever wished to spend one more second at the office.
I realized how great it is to be alive; just the mere fact of being alive. As the Desiderata goes, despite all its drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful life.
I also realized I just passed the bar exams, and all the sacrifice while studying law would be wasted (darn, I should have gone to those law school parties).
Today, 18 stitches later, I live on without a gall bladder. It didn’t make me any less heavy, but it gave me a whole new perspective on life.