Quality and quantity are two concepts we face almost daily in our lives. We find ourselves making decisions based on one or the other. For some, quantity is key. But some prefer quality. The reasons we choose one or the other are many. And sometimes these choices are not easy.
Just after Jilda and I were married in 1974, we spent our honeymoon in Panama City, Florida. The Quinns, an older couple, owned Quinn’s Cottages on Laguna Beach. The cottages weren’t air-conditioned, but they were cozy and we could afford the rent for a week on our pauper’s pay.
On the second day we were there, the Quinns invited us to lunch, their treat. We agreed and at noon, we wheeled into the parking lot at Duff’s. It was one of those all-you-can-eat cafeterias.
I ate pork chops, catfish, shrimp, hush puppies, cake, pudding and soft ice cream over a brownie. You could almost hear the cholesterol clogging my veins.
I was so full when we left I needed a wheelbarrow to get to the car. Quantity was the objective that day, so Duff’s was a good choice.
But quantity versus quality isn’t always as “cut and dry.” Sometimes the choices require a trade-off. Our friend Mary is a good example.
She discovered in 2003 that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This diagnosis kicked off years of chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and experimental drug therapies. Thankfully, treatment added years to her life.
As it turns out, cancer kept invading her body. Each time it did, she weighed treatment outcomes, and even though she knew the chemo would make her life miserable she decided that feeling miserable for a year was worthwhile if it could add years to her life. She opted for quantity instead of quality.
During the time she underwent treatments she was a hostage in her home. Even a small infection, which for most of us would be quickly cured with steroids and antibiotics, could have been fatal for her. Her friends understood her struggle and we kept her in our thoughts and prayers.
When Mary and her husband Bryan drove into our yard for the fish fry last year, we were delighted. She was as happy as I’d seen her in years.
About 30 friends and family members had gathered to enjoy a beautiful spring day. We ate fried fish and hush puppies. Afterwards we sat around in the shade of the oak and pine in our backyard and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a quality day.
As the shadows grew longer in the evening, people began saying their goodbyes. Mary had gone to the bathroom before the drive back to Birmingham and that’s when Bryan told us that Mary’s cancer was back.
After a lot of soul-searching, Mary made the decision along with Bryan to forego treatment. Doctors told her without treatment she could expect to live about a year. She decided that she’d come to a point in her life where quality was more important than quantity.
Mary and Bryan made the most of the last months of her life and she died in her sleep at home instead of in a hospital tethered to tubes and beeping machines.
We all face choices as we move through life. Some of the choices are no-brainers, but some of them are much more difficult.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book “Life Changes,” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at email@example.com.