“A bullet had found him
His blood ran as he cried
No money could save him
So he laid down and he died.” — Greg Lake
My life seems to be filled with doctor’s appointments these days. I shuttle between one or another each week and it can seem hard to keep up. I have no idea if this is normal or if it is my new normal. One of them sticks out though. I get to visit an Oncologist next week. Like many people I made the mistake of looking up what they do. Cancer. My other doctors talked me off of the proverbial ledge by assuring me that they do other stuff. The diagnosis could be completely benign or the sum of all my fears. As you might suspect it probably will be something in between.
It doesn’t help that the American health system is a mess. I promise I won’t get too political, but it seems ludicrous to wait more than a month on something that could be cancer. Ironically, the long wait has been both a godsend and special brand of torture. Like most people, I prepare myself mentally for the worst. So, it won’t come as a complete shock either way and I may have even gained some perspective.
There is a conversation I watch when I come up to moments like this. It was a conversation between Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper shortly after the death of Gloria Vanderbilt (Cooper’s mother). I present to you as a special gift you can watch when you need it most.
I sometimes repeat these stories because they revolve around my mind on endless loop. My mother in law was tasked with writing the obituary for her sister this past summer. Her sister was unmarried, had no children, and really hadn’t worked in more than 20 years. The task was a difficult one. She eventually turned to Pinterest for help. She used a cookie cutter obituary that ended up being like a Mad Libs obituary. Insert “she loved God” here and “survived by” there and maybe a few other generic lines.
The whole business seemed incredibly depressing. I went into a brief panic. I joked with my wife and daughter that they only needed to say that I loved God once. However, on the inside I began running an informal inventory. What had I done to make our world a better place? Had I had a positive impact on people’s lives? What would be my lasting legacy on this planet? At the end of the day I really don’t know. It’s something we don’t bother to tell each other or even think about on most days.
Every time I watch the video above, different portions stick out. The one that sticks out this time is when Cooper told us that his mother would often ask, “why not me?” when something would befall her or her family. It goes back to that nasty word I’ve talked about before: deserve. What exactly do I really deserve? Both my grandfathers scarcely made it to my current age. Any of us could walk in front of a bus tomorrow for all we know. We are guaranteed today and that is really it.
We spend most of the time in this space talking about the issues of the day and complaining about specific people in the news. Perhaps if most of us thought in terms of that final obituary or eulogy we would be better off. Whether we believe in heaven, hell, reincarnation, or nothingness, we each can leave our mark on the world. Let’s leave it better than we found it.