I just finished a recent(2022) novel, The Measure by Nikki Erlick based on an intriguing premise. One evening every citizen on earth twenty-two or older receives a box with a piece of string in it. The string’s length tells the recipient how long their life will be. Some people look inside the box; others don’t. I found the premise more interesting than the novel, though it is entertaining. But it began a reflection of my own.
A friend in college lost her mother to Huntington’s disease. Here it is often referred to as the illness that took singer/writer/activist Woody Guthrie. This fatal neurological illness gradually destroys the brain in an cascade of devastating symptoms. The disease typically shows up in middle age. Although it is hereditary, a person may not know they carry the gene for the disease until they have already had children. My friend devoted her life to a study of the gene resulting in, among other things, a test to determine a carrier. Out of an abundance of caution she chose to be childless since the odds of passing on the gene are 50/50. She also chose to forgo the test. She chose to live with the uncertainty that brought.
Sometimes people are given a diagnosis that suggests a future length of life. Still, it is much less certain than either the Huntington’s test or the piece of string in The Measure. I put myself in the place of the characters in the novel and the situation of my friend. I have decided I would neither look at the string nor take the test. I prefer living each day as it comes, trusting the end is out of my control.
What would you do?