I don’t remember now exactly how he said it. “You only have 24 hours to live,” or “You will die in 24 hours.”
“How can you be so sure, so exact,” I asked. “I’m only 34 years old, single, and I haven’t even lived yet.”
“It’s the amount of radiation in your system,” the doctor said, not looking directly at me. “You received a massive dose in the accident.” He looked directly at me then and said, “I’m sorry.” He started to leave the room and let me alone with my thoughts, but stopped at the door and turned back. “Radiation poisoning can be a long slow killer. You will go fast at the end with not a lot of pain. It was that large a dose. Oh, and the radiation inside of you can’t hurt anyone else. Go see those you love.” I was alone then.
My mind raced through the pictures of the accident that was impossible to happen but did. The emotions raced through me. Anger, fear, hate, regret, sorrow, flooded through me like a great wave. I ended up on the edge of the hospital bed with only one thought left. What was I going to do in the next, last, 24 hours? What to do in the one day I had left to live?
As they used to say, I needed to get ready to meet my maker. So, I decided to make a list. It was better than just sitting there starting at the off white wall.
1. I couldn’t go, see, phone, or talk to everyone I would want to tell that I love them. I decided to make one video for all of them. Doing that would be my first step.
2. Next I would go to my church and make arrangements for them to hold my service and play the video.
3. Eat! The condemned man would have a great delicious steak dinner for his last supper.
4. Drive out into the light-free countryside and sit under the stars for a while and think about God and Christ, his son, who also died so young and I would pray.
5. Finally, how to die, to let go, and not be a burden to anyone. I would go back to the hospital. They were used to handling dead people there. I would sit in the little prayer-room sanctuary off the main lobby and wait.
So, I am here now in the little chapel waiting. I did all of the above in my little list. I wrote a note telling whoever found me who they should contact. I put it in my shirt pocket. It stuck out enough for them to see.
I listen now to my breathing; the beating of my heart. I sit quietly waiting for death.
I can feel the changes in my body starting. The pain is starting. I thought I’d do one last thing and write out this that you are reading now. I am prepared to meet my maker.
What would you do if you only had 24 hours to live?
Good bye, my friend.
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