“Yes, we’re different, worlds apart
We’re not the same
We laughed it away
At the start, like in a game.”– Elvis Presley
Occasionally, something happens that makes you rearrange your thinking. Sometimes, it’s completely innocuous and sometimes it quite literally knocks you on your ass. I’ve had both happen from time to time and both have happened recently.
I just happened to go back to the homecoming game for my college last year. It just happened to be the 25th anniversary as well. This wasn’t planned. It was a happy accident. So, they were honoring distinguished alumni on the field and they came to our graduating class. I looked down on the field and openly asked who all those old people were. I know, I know, it took me a second.
It happened again when one of my many doctors told me there was something up with how iron was not getting into my blood. So, they are referring me to an oncologist/hematologist to check it out. I’ve had four or five different doctors for different things for the last few years, so I didn’t think anything of it and the nurse on the phone didn’t seem to make a big deal of it. Then, I decided to look up what those doctors actually do. Cancer.
Of course, there are numerous other conditions that came up as well. Crohn’s disease is just one of those. Anything sounds better than cancer or leukemia. Of course, this could go in any number of directions in terms of my health and I could take any number of lessons from this experience and likely will before all is said and done. The combination of the two stories is the gross realization that time flies by and we aren’t guaranteed anything.
That hit me when someone I know (a lot closer but keeping them anonymous) had a family member who died. They put someone in charge of writing the obituary. They couldn’t think of anything. The deceased had no children. They were not currently married. They really hadn’t worked at all and really hadn’t done anything with their life. So, they looked up an obituary on Pinterest and filled in the blanks. The whole exercise seemed like a Mad Libs obituary. Make sure it says they loved God and whatever family they did have and just kind of futz the rest.
I decided that was a minimal goal for myself. When I’m gone hopefully someone doesn’t have to go to Pinterest to spruce up a generic obituary to fill in the blanks of my life. Hopefully, someone won’t have to deliver the eulogy and focus on good hygiene or excellent punctuality. Hopefully I would have done something meaningful with my life and left something behind that others can latch onto.
The question is how we do that. I certainly don’t think hanging out in information silos and echo chambers is going to do the trick. I certainly don’t think enough good insults of the other side will make that happen either. Ultimately, we must give of ourselves and take some risks when reaching out to others. Sometimes these efforts turn out well and sometimes they turn out badly.
Who knows how long these realizations last. They could be as fleeting as life itself. You go to your appointment and they give you good news. You forget about the promises made and the realizations made. Life returns to normal. That is until it doesn’t. We don’t know how much time we have so maybe the urgency is a good thing.