Mario Sikora is an Enneagram 8, an Asserter type.
This is one of the stories in Chapter 8 on Asserters in The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear and Dying by Elizabeth Wagele.
I hadn’t gotten used to the fact that there was someone in the world who I was calling “my cardiologist;” by Saturday afternoon I had an oncologist and a pulmonologist as well.
Five days in the hospital and seven more waiting for the results of the biopsy of the nodes scraped from my chest through an incision at the base of my neck. This provided a lot of time to think. Twelve days is a long time when you’re waiting for that kind of news.
My thoughts didn’t turn to the afterlife; I’d long ago stopped speculating on such things. The threat of hell and enticement of heaven had lost their efficacy when I was twenty. There is a certain appeal to Eastern notions of the dance of Shiva or recycling through continuing stages or of somehow becoming one with some universal consciousness, but we’re adults, right? So let’s be serious.
I can’t count the times I’ve read Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” Camus takes what others see as the bleakest of fates—Sisyphus condemned to endlessly push a rock up a hill only to let it roll back down and do it again—and turns it into something noble. Like each of us must do, Camus’ Sisyphus has come to terms with his fate, and thus “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
My view of the life after death had settled into what I like to think of as a mildly Shinto-istic existentialism: that we leave a mark on those things and people we interact with; they carry our memory, they are reshaped by our having come into contact. While our lights may go out when that last electrical spark emits from the brain, others carry us with them and the way we shaped them lingers on, and thus do we. Like Shinto’s “kami,” or spirits, the memory of us lurks in those we have touched, longing to be seen.
I met a man once who was wearing the shoes of his son who had died five years prior. I always thought of those shoes as the most sacred of shrines, an intimacy beyond the comprehension of most of us. Speculations on the afterlife feel hollow in the face of such acts.
On the occasion or two that thoughts about what happens next did cross my mind over the course of those twelve days, they passed quickly. Pascal’s Wager had always seemed a coward’s ploy to me and I wasn’t going to blink now.
So here were the choices–it could be no big deal, or I could be in for a long sickness and unpleasant treatment or I could be dying. The pain in my chest and shortness of breath that sent me to the doctor in the first place were real. They weren’t stress—sure I have stress, I’m self-employed, our fourth son had been born a few months earlier, but I’m not that way. So maybe it was no big deal, but it was something.
For the most part, I put it out of my mind. It seems like they shouldn’t, but the events of the day go on–and it is surprisingly easy to fill up the time and be distracted.
But I’ll let you in on something; I’ll tell you what woke me up at night, what filled me with terror and heartache and despair, what made me get in the car by myself and drive fast and scream until nothing more would come out and I thought my throat would bleed: the knowledge that my sons would forget me.
Read Part III (the final) of Two Guns Tuesday October 30.
Mario Sikora is an executive coach and the 2011-2012 president of the International Enneagram Association, and he has an Enneagram certification program for professional users. Visit him at http://www.enneagramlearning.com/ and www.youtube.com/user/mariosikora