A Sobering Dose of Reality

This evening I had a very interesting doctor’s appointment.

More precisely, the doctor’s appointment was pretty boring and average. It was the time spent in the waiting room that was interesting. There was one older gentleman waiting with me. He turned out to be seventy but looked much younger to me.

Sure enough it didn’t take long and he started talking to me. I felt a little guilty, as I was trying check Facebook on my phone. Normally, this is about the time when I start thinking: “Please!! Don’t start a conversation with me!”

With resignation, I just put down the phone and listened politely.

Within a few moments, he told me that he had recently been diagnosed with terminal, inoperable cancer – in his liver, lungs, bones, lymph nodes… everywhere. He had my attention. My mind began racing… Is he going to break down and cry? If he does, should I hug him??

He continued, saying that he wasn’t afraid of dying.. only of becoming a vegetable, a burden. He wants to go quickly but the thought of his wife and daughters grieving over him bothers him.

The past few days have been very emotional. His wife cries all the time. His daughters are upset. Yet,he has remained distant and philosophical about it, at least so far. He wonders when it will hit him… when he’ll break down… when he’ll “lose it”. I sensed that he waiting for the opportunity to talk to somebody who wasn’t family… who wasn’t involved.. who wasn’t close to the situation. He’d been carrying this around with him and he needed to get a lot off of his chest. Through sheer happenstance, I was the chosen one.

He went on. I marveled at his strength, at his ease with himself.. at the grace with which he was handling this most unfair hand of cards he had been dealt.

Today was his first day of chemo. Without the chemo, his odds of living one year are five percent. If the chemo works spectacularly well, his odds of living one year go up to thirty percent.

As I listened, I couldn’t help but project myself into his situation. I couldn’tĀ imagine being as calm and dispassionate as him. It made me almost physically ill to contemplate.

By now, I was so glad that I was there for him. He obviously needed to talk.

I learned that he worked until age sixty-eight at which time he took a buyout from General Motors. Now, a mere two years into retirement, he’s staring the last year of life head on, in the face. “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. Money doesn’t mean shit”, he said. If I wasn’t quite convinced of this before, I was now.

He talked about other things too…. His daughters, his son-in-laws. His three grandchildren, the youngest a little girl of two.

Forty five minutes late, the office assistant finally called my name. I rose from my seat.

I walked over to him and purposefully extended my hand. I looked him in the eye as we shook hands. Our hands stay clasped together longer than a “normal handshake” called for. “I sincerely hope that everything goes just the way you want.”, I said, releasing his hand. I turned away and followed the office assistant through the door, leaving him alone with his thoughts.

As you can tell, this has had somewhat of an effect on me. So many thoughts stream through my head, but the important ones are these: Life is fragile. Life is short. And, you can never have too much of the important things: Love, family, friendship, laughter…

So, my friends, while I am in this melancholy mood of mine, I just want to thank you all for being a part of my life… I enjoy each and every one of you. Each of us has a unique relationship and they all mean a great deal to me.

Peace, out.