Yours truly is supposed to be in two places at the same time this weekend. Even TTG can’t pull that off. Two incredibly different circumstances but then again not so far apart. One is the wedding of a beautiful woman in New Jersey. The other is the memorial service for a very brave young man in Arizona. Their connection is ironic.
Chris was a wonderful husband and dad. Cut down at 38 not by a assassin’s bullet but an even more sinister thing called cancer. He was a strapping fun loving guy. He left behind a devoted wife and two small children. He grew up in Genesee on the outskirts of Denver in my kid’s milieu. We went to their wedding. This is not supposed to happen.
I had coffee with his dad in Vail a few weeks ago. Chris had decided to forego any further treatment. As we talked I could see the pain of reality on his sad face. He said,” In my mind I get it and in my heart I just can’t.” The tragedy of burying your child is beyond sad. I wish I could reach out some way and maybe I am doing it now. Hang in there, Budster.
The wedding will be a glorious one. The lovely Leigh,Leigh Barushka, famous Russiain ballerina as her dad used to call her is a tribute to another couple I have known for so long. She is the daughter of my friends John and Muffin. John was cut down by that same evil monster called cancer in his early forties some twenty odd years ago. .
Some of you know the story but I hope I don’t bore you. John and I were best friends. He was my doubles partner and drinking buddy. Trim, athletic and with a smile that was as wide as Texas. He was also very smart which is of course why I hung around with him. He just couldn’t get the equation of death to prove out. He fought so very hard like Chris. And then one day said that is enough.
John changed my life and he is why I write these missives. He was the subject of the very first one which after 175 of them seems like a long time ago. We spent most every day of the last nine months of his life together. I owed him that. It’s what best friends do. We laughed a lot and yes every so often cried too.
One day we were driving home from New York City. He couldn’t ride the subways after so much chemo and I was the Uber of the day. As we drove along I started saying,”Cancer, Cancer, Cancer.” He had seen me do strange things many times before but this was nuts. I told him it was part of our friendship and didn’t bother me. It was like a door had opened and a huge weight was now being shared by two crazy guys.
That afternoon we talked and talked and he told me the sadness and heartbreak that he had kept inside to shield his wife and three little girls. Our friendship just got so much better. As the time grew close one day he startled me. He said “I will never see my girls grow up…and you,my friend will never see your kids grow up again.” Nine months later I quit Wall Street and just spent time getting to know my wife and kids. Thank you so very much.
I changed in a lot of ways. Some tough. I was diagnosed with clinical depression not long after. Not only because of John but probably a culmination of things. I worked hard at beating it and went on for several years speaking about mental illness. Some fools actually let me go on TV and radio to ramble on. I hope they don’t regret that.
In a very strange way all this has all come full circle. I work in hospice now. Last Thursday I went for my usual afternoon shift. You really don’t know what to expect. You can have a full house with our 18 beds or you can just have a handful. This day things were hopping.
I like to visit the patients and their families. Somehow I just feel comfortable doing it. I walked past a room where a family had been gathering. Ironically there were three daughters standing vigil and the man’s name was John. As the afternoon wore on the patient was in what is called transition but the girls decided to take a short break. You have to get rest sometime.
As I swung by the room a little later something didn’t seem quite right. His breaths were shallow so I decided to stop in for a moment. “Hey big guy, how’s it going?” No response. I knew that. I felt for a pulse and it was beyond weak. As I watched his chest heave one last time he let out his final breath. I didn’t know if he was religious but I said a prayer any way. Couldn’t hurt. I called the nurse and her cold stethoscope calmly confirmed the verdict.
I sat for a moment and just thought about the rite of passage I had been a small part of. It was beautiful and I felt blessed. I also realize some of you think I am crazy. Maybe so but things took on a different perspective for the rest of my day. Kind of the way my life has after my buddy John. Hopefully all these years have made me a little better man and a few people happier for what I do.
So I say to the dad and mom and wife and kids of Chris and others somehow things work out. I can’t make the hurt go away but maybe I can give you something to hang onto for the future. Thank you for sharing your life with me and thanks to all of you for reading this very special message.
Ted The Great.
100 billion people have died since the beginning of time. No one has beaten the rap. Makes you feel insignificant doesn’t it?
When a person dies their sense of hearing is the last thing to go.
No one has died of old age since 1951. Since then the government has taken that classification off death certificates.
80% of the people die in hospitals
Every hour at least one person is killed by a drunk driver.
TTG, Thanks for this moving tribute to Chris, his family, the Budster and your dear friend. We are all wearing our emotions on our sleeves these days it seems, striving with only limited success to make sense of some Imponderables as you so aptly call them. Graci.
Touching and beautiful, Ted. These are the things that matter the most.
Ted, this struck a special cord with me tonight as my mother in law was admitted to Porter Home Hospice today for brain cancer. It has been a tough week but her happy face was all worth it as we were able to help her return home. Thanks for sharing your story!
Sonya Neumann Executive Director Sent from my phone
ted- many times when i am grouchy in the morning i turn and say – say hello like Ted does with that great big smile and make someone else’s day a good one and for God’s sake stay positive.
I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me.
Ted, A great tribute to Chris and his family, thank you. Some day I would like to see the statistics of how many treasured family members wait until everyone has “stepped out for a breath of air”, for them to take their last. It seems to be the norm in my family, the latest being my 99year-old Aunt peg. I flew into Chicago following an urgent call, she knew when I would arrive at the hospice, and she “checked out” about 30 minutes before I made it to her bedside. I’m not certain just who benefitted from that, but I’ll probably try to do the same. As you said, we are all going to join that 100 billion!!!! Chris Murata