I often have to break bad news and tell someone that they have an incurable illness. These discussions are often awkward and heavy with unexpressed emotion. There are the unspoken words and the unasked questions. Occasionally someone will hesitantly ask” How much time do I have?” expecting straight answers. My usual reply is “ I don’t know” and then I will explain the progression of illness, the things to look for on the way and how to make sense of this senseless event.
The game of life is unpredictable and we all know that at some point we are going to be disqualified. It is in the nature of the game, one where everyone eventually loses.
This does not mean that the game should not be fun and that we should not play the game as hard and as enthusiastically as possible. Knowing some basic rules allows the game to continue to the very last round. Some people give up too quickly. Some people have unrealistic expectations in the game and some simply don’t understand the rules.
Here are a few of my basic rules.
Rule 1. We are all eventually eliminated from the game by death.
Understanding that we are mortal and that each day is a gift allows us to play the game differently. It removes the arrogance of being indestructible and allows us to play with more compassion, with a sense of thankfulness and with a different end game in sight.
Rule2. Play as hard as you can.
Life is a gift and every day presents an opportunity. What will you do with your 24 hours today? Some people play half heartedly because they are afraid to give it their all as they wait to be eliminated. Some people don’t believe the game will end and some people just don’t care.
Rule3. Don’t be eliminated early.
We are not always in control of the events in the game, but we can remain in the game longer if we avoid acts of stupidity and have a longer-term view. Stupidity comes in many forms, it is more common in early adulthood and it is often made worse by excessive alcohol use. We all make mistakes but we don’t need to keep on making the same mistakes. Play the game to stay in the game. Regular exercise and everything in moderation are good long- term strategies.
Rule 4. Stay in the game.
Fight to stay in the game. Illness and misfortune occur in the game of life. Fight to stay in the game. Hang in there to beat illness. Look for cures. Seek healing. Don’t be disqualified because you have not tried your best at staying in the game. Don’t give up.
If someone like me says you have an incurable illness, challenge it. Ask for a second opinion. Look at options not to be eliminated. Make sure of the facts but don’t chase false hopes and shadows and promises of cure when there are none.
Rule 5. Know when its time to fold your cards.
When it is time for your game to end, and you have done all you can in rule 4, and the reality is that the game is ending, don’t fight it. I have seen too many people fight to stay in the game when we are all subject to rule 1. Accept your losses and move on. Don’t make a bad thing worse.
If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the strategy in the game needs to change. The aim is to get out of the game without holding the joker. Discard the cards that are no longer important and focus on the things that matter: relationships, forgiveness, a bucket list, setting affairs in order, taking time to enjoy what remains in life and seeking God.
Rule 6. Retire from the game in peace.
Death comes to us all. We cannot avoid it. Finding peace in this difficult time is possible if there is a hope beyond death, and if we are able to embrace the peace giver. Evidence suggests that we don’t end, we continue beyond this life into an eternal existence. Finding the God of peace and being sure of the eternal dimension allows us to retire from the game in victory and not in defeat.
There are my rules for the game of life. I am sure you have your own set of rules. Regardless I hope that your game is successful and filled with happiness and may your game end in peace.