Life is far too short to stuff a mushroom

Rev. Doctor, Gereth Edwards, writes about the inherent desire of companionship.

I always maintain that a broken relationship, caused by disease, is not often seen and never repaired. I know the true pathofobic exists – those who cannot deal with the whiff of illness, and if they do, they run for the hills.

Generally, a breakdown of a relationship is more a continuation of a neglected small issue – like the first chip on a windscreen, it may lie dormant for years; but on a day, when pressured enough, the crack widens, and with further neglect, shatters.

Many people – when their partners are faced with a life-changing disease – become stoic, declaring: “I am so glad I could be of help in their moment of need.” The problem is, in the chronic fight against disease there is no end. The Faustian contract easily signed becomes a millstone, if the love is feigned. A slow disintegration of wanting to help transforms into resentment – in my opinion, a natural process if the bond is weak to begin with. What to do then?

Recently, I heard about a man who woke up one day and declared to his wife: “I am unhappy. I want to leave you. When I met you, I imagined a life full of excitement; I didn’t sign up for a normal life.” He wanted to live an extraordinary life. This shocked me.

In the greater scheme of things, everything can be humdrum. We wake up, have breakfast, ablute, go to work and sleep. What did he not get when he signed up? Of course, we all wish to be amazed by life and want to fist punch holes in the sky to prove we exist, but,  as an afterthought, if nobody shares it with us, what would the point be? All humans crave somebody with whom    to share their journey.

The reality is that, when dying, we don’t declare the man with the most  toys the winner. Rather, we look for those who will share our fears, and, if necessary, hold our hand until the light, eventually, fades.

Life is made up of exquisite moments, each like a sparkler. They illuminate and lift our spirits, but when they die, leave no substance. Of course, without them we would never strive to dance on a moonbeam or catch a falling star. That contrast is vital to illuminate the foundation of our lives – a silly braai for two, seeing your partner hide a tear at a family event, comfortably watching a TV series with your person, even though action is not your preferred genre, or being elbowed during the night to change the timbre of your snoring, so the sound of it doesn’t kill all the romance in the heart, and allows both of you to wake up, still loving each other.

Ridiculous as it may be, what is the alternative? Passion lasts a season; companionship a lifetime and love is eternal. On the one hand, ditch the emotionally barren person, who you  can see is ready to bolt, or on the other hand, cling to the one who conveys only care and love for you with a single glance. At this point, if you’re asking how to tell the difference, nobody knows. Trust your instincts, listen to the little voice within you, and pray your choices are part of a greater scheme.

In short, live as if you have no dress rehearsal and the curtain, on opening night, has started to lift. As Shirley Conran once said: “Life, the moment you face your own mortality, is far too short to stuff a mushroom.”


Rev. Doctor Gereth Edwards was a practicing plastic surgeon, co-founder of the Netcare Milpark Hospital - Breast Care Centre of Excellence and the Breast Health Foundation. He then refocused his life and qualified as a minister. He writes from both a scientific and humanities view.

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