She lived in a dead marriage, and clung to a job she hated until the doctor gave her the terrifying diagnosis: she had only one year to live.
Clara Daniels pressed her palms against her eyes. She could feel another one of those horrific nauseating headaches coming on again. She’d already been to the doctor about it and he had ordered a battery of tests and a CAT scan.
Her mother told her that it was all in her head, and her best friend Gail told her it was the constant stress she lived under. Clara thought it was her unhappiness somehow made flesh, tormenting her. And in a way, she was right.
Clara took a migraine tab and drank a cup of coffee, then picked up the manuscript she was editing. What utter dross! She could write better, in fact, she already had.
In the bottom drawer of her desk was her first novel, all she had to do was find the courage to show it to her boss… Clara stood up and walked to his door. She knocked and peeked in.
“Mr. Kandinski, could I speak to you for a minute?” Mr. Kandisnki looked up and sighed. He didn’t look at all pleased by Clara’s interruption, but then, he never looked pleased by anything.
“What is it?” he snapped. “Not another raise? You earn too much for what you do anyway!”
“No,” said Clara, forcing herself to smile as if he’d made a joke. “I wanted to ask you to look at a manuscript…my manuscript.”
“No!” screamed Kandinski, slamming his fist on his desk. “You are barely competent as an editor, I don’t want to wade through trash!” Clara nodded, turned her back, and went back to her desk in tears.
Faster than she had thought possible, the afternoon sped by, and it was time to go home, home to Jerry. When Clara had married Jerry ten years ago, she had been in love with him, and all his little quirks had seemed adorable.
A decade in, he irritated her, and she realized that she no longer loved him. Gail had told her to leave Jerry again and again but Clara simply couldn’t. “You don’t understand,” Clara told her best friend. “He doesn’t do anything WRONG!”
And he didn’t. Poor Jerry was a good loving husband. He often surprised Clara with flowers and theater tickets, he made dinner, did his share of the chores — there just wasn’t anything bad Clara could say about him. Except that she didn’t love him anymore.
Clara knew that Jerry felt there was something wrong, which only made him try harder, and Clara feel guiltier. Tonight Jerry had set the table with flowers and candles and he had opened a bottle of wine.
Sometimes we have to face death to learn to appreciate life.
“Oh Jerry,” Clara said, giving him a quick peck on the lips. “I’m sorry honey, I had another one of those headaches and all I want to do is sleep…” Jerry understood, and a little later he brought Clara some tea.
She really didn’t deserve him! Clara cried herself to sleep. She was trapped. This was her life, and she’d just have to put up with it.
Two days later, Clara was sitting opposite her doctor, waiting for the results of all the tests and the scans. “Mrs. Daniels, I’m afraid the news isn’t good,” he said gently. “You have an inoperable brain tumor.”
Clara just stared at him. “Inoperable?” she whispered “But…Chemo? Medication?”
“This kind of tumor doesn’t respond to medication. As I’ve explained, it’s a rare condition. Usually, the only solution is surgery, but in your case…”
“How long?” asked Clara.
“Well, that depends on a lot of factors, but I’d say maybe a year,” the doctor said quietly, “That will allow you to set your affairs in order.”
“Yes,” whispered Clara. “Set my life in order…”
She walked out of the doctor’s office in a daze. She’d hated her life, but now that she knew she was dying, she realized she desperately wanted to live. Really LIVE!
Clara walked into the office and went straight to her desk. She put all her personal items and her manuscript into a cardboard box then walked up to Mr. Kandisnki’s door and barged right in.
“I just wanted you to know that I’m quitting. You are a hack, a disgusting human being, and your breath stinks!” She turned around and walked out slamming the door. She felt GREAT!
Clara went home, kicked off her shoes, and poured herself a glass of wine, then she packed Jerry’s bags. When he arrived from work, they were standing by the door and so was Clara.
“Jerry, you are a kind, lovely man and you will make some woman very happy, but I don’t love you anymore.” Jerry looked poleaxed, but he was decent. He told Clara that he’d give her time to think.
Clara thanked him for his considerate attitude and that she’d be calling her lawyer in the morning. After Jerry left, Clara felt a little bad, but she felt a huge wave of relief. She was free!
She might not have lived free, but she was certainly going to die free. Two days later, she was sitting with an old friend from college as she paged through her manuscript.
“Clara, this is brilliant!” her friend said. “I want to publish this. I’m assigning you an editor.”
The editor turned out to be tall, dark, handsome, and shy. His name was Dylan and he loved Clara’s novel. In the first week, the two spent hours together working on the manuscript.
One day, Dylan took Clara’s hand. “I’m sorry, look, I…I’m falling in love with you…”
Clara felt her heart breaking. She was falling in love too, but she didn’t want to hurt Dylan. “Dylan, I have less than a year to live, do you understand? I won’t hurt you like that, I care about you too much.”
Clara decided to ask for a new editor. She couldn’t bear to be so close to Dylan every day, knowing how they both felt. Then her phone rang. It was from the doctor’s office, asking her to come in immediately.
When Clara walked in, she was surprised to see the doctor looking deadly pale. “Mrs. Daniels,” he said. “I owe you an apology, I don’t know how it happened… Your results were mixed up with another patient. You’re not dying.”
Clara had to sit down. “I’m not dying?”
“No, you’re in perfect health, and your headaches are probably due to stress…” The doctor looked very upset, but Clara couldn’t stop laughing. She walked out feeling like she was walking on air.
Her phone rang. It was Dylan. “Listen, Clara,” he said as soon as she’d answered. “I don’t care how long you have, I’d rather have a year with you than a lifetime with anyone else!”
“Dylan!” Clara cried. “I’m OK, it was a mistake, I’m not dying, Dylan, I’m going to live, really LIVE!” And she did.
What can we learn from this story?
Sometimes we have to face death to learn to appreciate life. Clara hated her life until she thought she was going to die.
Live every day as if it were your last. Don’t leave the things you want to do or say for a ‘better time,’ there may not be a better time. This is the only time we have.
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