Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, May 17, 2009

On Borrowed Time

“Betsy died this morning.” Bob’s voice sounded choked off, as if his larynx were constricted and only a small amount of air was getting through.

“But I thought she was recovering. I thought…”

“That’s what we all thought, Karen. But we were wrong,” Bob interrupted me, and I realized this was not the time to question him. Instead, I offered to get on the next plane to Portland and help with the funeral arrangements.

Perhaps it should be drummed into us from the time we are born—that we will die someday. We are here on this planet for a finite amount of time. But we probably wouldn’t listen anyway. Betsy was a dear, dear friend and it's coming up on eight years that she's been gone.

Betsy’s older brother, Jim took me aside the day of her funeral, wanting to thank me for writing the obituary that appeared in the morning paper. He was angry that the fabric draped around Betsy’s casket did not come down to the ground and you could see the wheels of the table it was laying on. For some it is far easier to get angry than grieve the loss of a loved one. Then Jim said, “Betsy was living on borrowed time, you know. From the time she got sick in her early twenties to the day she died was borrowed.”

Why did he think that? Because she wasn’t supposed to survive the Hodgkins disease, let alone get pregnant and raise a child. Then two years prior to her death, she almost died from heart disease, when two valves gave out and had to replaced. The valves had been damaged from the radiation that saved her from the Hodgkins. This time, her lungs had given out or something. They filled with fluid, she hemorraged and died. Were they damaged from the radiation as well? We don’t know. We just know Betsy lived and died and her brother thought her time here on Earth was borrowed.

Health care technology enables us to save people that couldn’t be saved, heal things that couldn’t be healed and preserve life for longer and longer. But are we just postponing our destiny? Are we even supposed to postpone our destiny? I’ve often wondered if I would take heroic measures to make myself well if I got really sick with cancer or something. I’m not sure. I supposed if my son or husband asked me, I’d do it. But I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do, although it certainly gives the ill person and those they love more time together.

I supposed if there’s unfinished business, that’s a good thing. Betsy got to raise a lovely young woman, her daughter. She gave Erin a great gift of unconditional love that will be with her the rest of her life. It’s hard to know when to take action and when to accept the things I can’t change. Are we all living on borrowed time? Is life borrowed?

I guess we’re all given a gift of life with a certain timespan. If karma controls that timespan and what happens in it, then all we can do is walk the walk as best we can. I don’t think we can control our destiny. I think we can take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions as we walk our path. But we can’t control the outcomes. Feeling good about myself is determined by how much responsibility I take for myself and how I behave. If I go against my own moral/ethical code, I feel awful. If I feel sorry for myself, I feel awful. If I’m jealous or envious of others, I feel awful. If I don’t do what I think I’m supposed to do, I feel awful.

I miss Betsy. She would have been a great one to talk to about all of this. But at the end of the day, I guess I don’t believe Betsy lived on borrowed time. She made choices that lengthened the time she had here and then there were no more choices. But it is an interesting concept to live by. How would I live my life if I thought about it as borrowed? When I borrow something, I treat it well because I want to return it in good condition. I take better care of it because I know I have to return it in a certain amount of time. If I'm borrowing the time in my life, I'd better pay more attention and take better care.




Anonymous said...


One of my favorite blog posts of yours yet. You told a good story, got me involved emotionally, and asked a question I think many of us can relate to: Are we living life to the fullest?

I like the idea of living like time is borrowed. Thanks for reminding me today that life is precious!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

What a wonderfully written, thoughtful post Karen. And it serves as a reminder to us all to live each day as if it were our last.


N A Sharpe said...

A very emotional and heartfelt post. Thanks for the reminder to live each day to the fullest and not take life for granted. I think memories are the legacy we leave behind. Fill them with joy.


Helen Ginger said...

I think your way of looking at "living on borrowed time" is a wonderful way. Thank you so much for this post.

Straight From Hel

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks for writing this, Karen. Sometimes we forget that things can change in an instant. Our time, borrowed or otherwise, is incredibly precious and must not be wasted.


KK Brees said...

I'm 5 years out this summer on my journey away from cancer. In a way that other cancer survivors understand, cancer was a gift. I appreciate each day and each breath. I understand the brevity of life and it's given me so much in the way of appreciating the glory of creation.