Tag Archives: cancer

Not in a Hurry

I found out that I’m dying.  How’s that for an opening line?  I found this out about 40 years ago, when my great grandmother, Emma, passed away and I attended my very first funeral.  At 5 years old, I quickly caught on that dying was not a great thing.  It was the first time I had seen my mom cry and it scared me.  I associated death as a bad thing at that point.

Over the next few years, I lost several more relatives, including my 16 year old cousin Carla when I was 10.  She had kidney disease and the doctors told her parents that she wouldn’t live to see her 16th birthday.  She proved them wrong by passing away early in the morning the very day she turned 16.  That death still hurts me 35 years later.  Carla was my baby sitter and best friend, if you can consider your cousin your friend.  As an only child, I would beg my mom to let her come over during the summer when I wasn’t staying with my grandparents.  She taught me how to play Monopoly, as well as how to properly pronounce it.  It’s funny that I can still here her voice just as if I had heard her on the phone 10 minutes ago.

I’ve since lost most of my family including my parents and all grandparents.

It was an odd, almost surreal, feeling when I became the patriarch of my family line.  There was no family member left to turn to for advice or  to share my childhood memories with.  Almost out of instinct, I still pick up the phone to call my grandmother, who passed from this world over 10 years ago, whenever I get the urge to speak to her.  And I’m consumed with grief when I realize, after the clock tics a few times, that she’s not here anymore.  Why do I do that?

Strangely enough, I’m prepared for my own death.  Notice I didn’t say I’m in a HURRY for it, but just prepared.  My wife hates it when I talk about it because she’s 10 years younger and odds are she will outlive me by at least 15 years and who would want a life without me in it, right?  I have no fear of death…maybe a little fear surrounding HOW I will die, but not death itself.  It’s a road we will all cross to our judgement.  I don’t fear judgement, but that’s a conversation for another time.

That being said, I don’t think I’m ready to die just yet.  If I look at my grandfather’s and grandmother’s siblings age when they died, I can expect I will live to be in my late 80’s.  My grandfather and all but one of his siblings died in their 90’s.  At 45, I’m thinking I’m right at the half way point in my life.  That might be a little audacious to think because I’m 75 pounds overweight, but I’m working on that.

I’m not ready to die just yet because I’m not finished living out the purpose God put me here for.  I have paintings to paint, hugs to give, books to write, friends to make, jokes to laugh at, babies to hold, photos to take, advice to give, questions to ask, teams to coach…I could go on and on.

There’s little chance I’m going to change the world with any of the above, but at a minimum, I’ll leave a ripple, maybe even a wave.  Traditional thinking would say, at 45 “your chances are fading.” I would offer an alternate and less jaded opinion that says I have more to offer in the way of “wisdom” now that ever before.  Why would I have started writing about a life yet lived?  I’ve built quite a resume of life exposure over the last 45 years that will benefit someone along my path.

And in the end, like the boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean, if help one person along this journey, I’ve change that person’s world.  That’s my life purpose and I firmly believe we all share that same mission – to change the world by helping those we come in contact with.  It could be something as simple as a smile to someone having a bad day, or putting dent in your bank account to help that young couple at church that just lost both their jobs and found out they are having a baby.  You can find a way to make one person’s world better without looking far.

So until my work is finished, I’ll stand by my statement…I’m prepared, but not in a hurry, to die.

Be awesome.Image

Pushing Up Daisies

My childhood heroes were my paternal grandparents, Noble and Estelle Holmes.

Noble was born in 1911.  He was forced to quit school in the third grade to help support the family.  Can you imagine an 8 year old working in a saw mill?  I can’t fathom it, but that’s exactly what he had to do as the oldest of what would eventually be 8 children.  After various industrial jobs, he injured his back 1973 and was eliminated from the workforce.  He passed away at the age of 91 from complication of pneumonia in 2003, a few days before his 92nd birthday.

Estelle was born in 1919.  Finishing high school, her work life would be spent working in yarn mills that were, at one time, so prevalent in our hometown.  In October of 1998, she was diagnosed with colon cancer.  I watched one of my heroes suffer with grace and dignity, not once complaining, not once showing the pain.  She passed away in April the following year at the age of 79.

The both were my shelter, my “rocks”, and my escape from a home filled with violence and constant turmoil.

My love of cooking came from spending time with my grandmother on Sunday mornings before church, preparing the family meal.  I’m sure I was quite the annoyance, trying to help, but in the end, creating more work for her.  She was patient with me.  As I’ve gotten older, I find myself with much a much deeper well of patience and I believe that time spent with her is the source.

I inherited my grandfather’s sense of humor. He was always looking for a way to aggravate (in a good way) my grandmother and, as those of you who know me personally; I find myself doing that to my wife.  He also taught me how to fish, garden, train a dog, and the importance of waking up early.

If they could see me now, they’d tell me they were proud of me.  Knowing the conditions they grew up in almost makes me feel guilty for living a (slightly) above-middle-class lifestyle.  But they would be proud knowing they had a huge influence on me, preventing me from letting the circumstances in my home not become an excuse for drugs, alcohol, and/or criminal behavior.

One other thing they’d tell me would be to slow down.  My life goes 150 MPH some days with work, coaching soccer, grass cutting, clothes folding, cooking, cleaning, reading, writing, running, gardening, the list goes on.   Their meaning would be “edit your life.”  Spend more time with your family in the moment, and less time worrying about tomorrow.  Do what your heart tells you to do, not what your calendar does.  Love more.  Laugh more. Dream more.

They’d tell me that time is short and in a blink of an eye we find ourselves pushing up daises.

Eliminate the noise.  Focus on what matters.