Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"When I'm 64...today"



If you go to the website for the American Cancer Society you'll find all kinds of information about treatments and survival rates for all types of cancer.   The five year survival rates for lung cancer is a miserable 15%.  When I was diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago I went to the ACS site, read those chilling stats and began putting all important documents in one place and planning for death.

The ACS uses the five year point as a marker for declaring victory over the cancer because the prevalence of a return of the cancer is so overwhelming.  After surgery and six months of chemotherapy I began living my life tentatively and timidly; waiting for the Big C to come roaring back.  The chemo affected just about every hormone in my body and stirred things up, much as one of those tornadoes "re-arrange the furniture" in the midwest.  Every time I go for a checkup my blood tests results would serve as a good case study for assessing the affects of chemo toxicity on the human body.

Yet, here I am, five years later, one of the lucky 15 per centers.  It has now been five years since surgery and my last chemo session.  Like those first round bonus babies in football and baseball who garner huge signing bonuses, I too was given a huge bonus, in years, rather than money.  (If you were to ask Steve Jobs which is the greater reward he would have opted for life!)

I have no idea why I'm still here while others, far more worthy, have passed on.  My son passed too early.  The little girl in Tuscon who died in a hail of gunfire from a mad man deserved better.  Little Aliya Shell, six years old, who died at the hands of gang bangers in Chicago last month, deserved to live long enough to wear makeup, put on her first prom dress, and find the love of her life, deserved more.

I only know I'm here.  I've stopped questioning the will of our creator.  Maybe those who have passed are going to a greater reward far superior to what this life has to offer.  I lived to see two grand babies born and two others grow up to be beautiful young ladies.

Perhaps my soul requires further "refinement".  That wouldn't surprise me.  I really believe that if I could see God's report card on me he would be giving me a "C" for work and an "B+" for effort.  Like everyone else, to become a better person I have to overlook the negative experiences of my life and opt not to use them as a crutch, or an excuse, for not becoming all that He wishes me to be.

My accomplishments?  I served my country for 22 years, sometimes in peril and sometimes when loneliness was the only threat.  I was a good son to my mom.  I am one of the few who ever gave mouth-to-mouth to a poisoned puppy and fed it milk and sat up with it for eight hours, until it quit banging it's head against a wall and swaying like a drunken sailor...and was rewarded to see it completely recover.
I've written some poetry that I think is pretty good.  I've chronicled the lives of family so the later generations may know something of their past.  I've learned to "let go" of my loved ones so that they can sink or soar on their own.  I've planted trees that will give shaded comfort and sweet scents long after I've passed.

I will probably never write "the great American novel".  I will never be President.  I will likely never have my "15 minutes of fame".  Yet, there once walked a man on this earth who spoke of simple things and is majestically remembered in an essay called "One Solitary Life".  I've always loved that essay that chronicles the life of a man who lived for a brief three decades, but is remembered, and honored, some two thousand years after his death.

So, it may very well be that "simple" is a good enough remembrance.  Maybe I'll be remembered for making Chocolate Gravy one morning for my kids.  Maybe they'll remember a wacky Elvis impersonation, with lip curl and guttural rock and roll playfulness.  Maybe for a ghost story well told.  Maybe for the look of pride in my eyes at a child's achievement.

Maybe I have yet to build the legacy that assures my immortality.  Maybe that's why I'm still here.  My creator has decided that I must stick around until I achieve a better grade.  In the stillness of night, when the soul is more attuned to "the fates", when the noise of the day has quieted, He whispers to me and says "I'll let you know when it's time".

Meanwhile, I'll continue to enjoy the beauty of a sunrise, a "heart-melt" when I stare upon the visage of my children and grandchildren, when I hear the heart-stirring beauty of lyric and music, or, grandest of all, when the love of my family bathes me in the warmth of belonging.

Happy Birthday To Me.



7 comments:

Darlene said...

Happy Birthday!!! Love you!

JustCommonSense said...

Thanks, babe. Love you too.

PammieJean said...

Happy Birthday JCS....whoever you are. Hope it's nice in Phoenix on this day and that you and family do something special. It's a blustery 40 degrees here in Fargo. I'll be 64 in June. I wish I was back in Phoenix.

JustCommonSense said...

Thanks so much PammieJean. Haven't heard from you for awhile so glad to year you're still kicking!

Ken said...

I wanted to say something profound here after reading your post. Your last paragraph just really moved me. Rather than stumble all over myself, I will just say, Happy Birthday and thank you for taking the time to share a bit of yourself here today. It reminded me of so many things I am so grateful for. Seeing the sunrise this morning was one of them and praying I get to see it again tomorrow. To you I say, Happy Birthday!

JustCommonSense said...

Thank you so much, Ken. It means a lot to me when folks stop and take the time to post.

GrimReaper said...

Please die soon. Thanks. Happy Last B-Day.