I recently saw a movie that asked the question, If you could see the future, would you change anything?
That question has certainly been at the center of many sci-fi movies, such as The Butterfly Effect and Minority Report. In these films, the hero is trying to stop terrible things from occurring – with unintended consequences.
But what is most interesting to me is thinking about what has already occurred in my life and what I might do differently. I lost my mother at the age of 13 months. She died giving birth to my younger sister. If she had known that it would kill her, would she have gotten pregnant? Maybe so. Maybe she would see that my little sister and I would become so close, best friends, and that my father would meet a new woman who would double the size of our family by bringing her own children into it.
I also think about my own choices: career paths, friendships, moves, romantic relationships. These were certainly not without pain. But had I not experienced them, I would not be in the place I am today. A couple of years after I had my first child, I suffered a miscarriage. I was despondent in the immediate aftermath of the loss. But had I not miscarried my child, I would not have had my son a year later.
Every loss, just as much as every joy, moves us along the path of our lives. Knowing that we will experience these losses shouldn’t stop us from living. Quite the contrary. It should urge us to make the most of the present and the good times we have.
Recently my daughter asked if we thought she should get a DNA test to find out if she has any genetic markers for disease. Because she is adopted and her family history is unknown, she has a very legitimate concern about what might befall her in the future. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, if there are steps she could take to prevent or mitigate a disease, it might be worth knowing. On the other hand, such knowledge might be a heavy burden, especially if she were to find she is marked for a terminal illness.
Fear of pain should never stop us from living. After all, from the moment we are born, we are beginning to die. It is the journey in between that gives our lives meaning. Let us venture forth into the great unknown, the future, with open hearts.