Posted from Alexandria, Virginia
I am sitting here in a beautiful apartment overlooking the Potomac in the DC area. I made a quick dash here yesterday and will go home tonight.I am not taking in the sights or bugging my local politicians. Georgetown’s 1789 will have to wait for another trip for me to down a few. I am visiting friends and one of them for the last time. My buddy Neal is in the final stages of his battle with brain cancer. I owe him and his great wife, KC this sojourn.
As I left for the airport yesterday I said to Kathy,”I have to find a different pastime than dealing with dying people.” It’s been an interesting few weeks. Don’t ask me why but I seem to have this stupid ability to talk with people who are dealing with death. Both patient and family. A stop like this covers both sides of the fence. Both are equally important. A survey of dying people has shown they are nervous about how it will all happen but their biggest concern is about those they leave behind.
During the night I have held Neal’s hand,hugged him and told him I loved him. Wait! Guys don’t do that. Yes, they do. KC and I stayed up too late last night and drank too many glasses of wine but there were no regrets this AM. This too shall pass. As we talk I try to help her make sense of something that seems so irrational. It’s really isn’t. It’s a part of this crazy thing we call life.
Last week at our hospice residence in Denver I spent a fair amount of time with a 42 year old patient who was dying of colon cancer. He and his wife had nine children from the ages of 2 to 18. He was the same age as our son Scott and emotions ran high. On various days I met most of the children and I became “Coach” because of the way I helped their dad. I was a bit humbled by the fact they let me into their lives. Kind of like Neal and KC. It is an honor I do not take lightly.
I met Neal on a cruise to Australia and New Zealand a few years ago. We started having a cigar and a scotch every evening about five. He appeared from the get go as a totally real and decent guy. Soon the group grew to a half dozen and we solved most problems of the world in the course of our opining. Until yesterday we had not seen each other face to face since the voyage but our friendship and those of our wives has grown strong through phone and the magic of email. We have shared so much of life and ourselves. Very cool.
Now some of you might find this depressing but au contraire. It is marvelous. In my work if you can call it that, it is quite meaningful when a person opens up. I think because they trust me and know time is short they are able to say things that some would find so difficult. I probe gently but never invade. I never bang on a door that doesn’t want to be opened but I always stand ready with a key. It’s what I do.
I think that always mystifies me in a way. I was up in Wyoming last weekend with the Colorado Senior Golf Association. That is any old fart that is over 60 and knows how to swing a golf club for better or worse. Let’s say there were around 45 of us. As we sat at dinner with no seating arrangement your lot was cast in any number of personalities and age brackets. Some were facile in conversation and others guarded. Some expressed opinions in an open way and others let you know it was their way or the highway. But guess what TTG? It is what makes a horse race on this planet called Earth.
I guess in some strange way I am opening up to you. As I look back on this epistle I hope they don’t come across as random thoughts. They are just a summation of a few weeks of some serious interaction with my fellow man. It is strangely invigorating and cathartic. It says it is great to be alive and feel like a human being.
I am going to cut it short. I have to say good bye to my buddy one last time, hug his cute wife and wend my way back westward. I am so glad I came…that I reached out. Life is a long winding road. You need to stop and smell the roses. More importantly you have to stop and talk to your fellow travelers. Listen and you will learn volumes.
Ted the Great
I wouldn’t know where to start.