Three years ago in March, a man walked into a medical office with a cough he couldn’t shake. He walked out with a diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer and a referral to oncology. He started aggressive treatments and was told he had 4-6 months to live. He overhauled his habits & lifestyle, utilized every tool he could find from both Eastern & Western medicine, and continued to be the same optimistic, kind, amazing man and artist that we all knew and loved.
Two years ago in March, my sister-in-law died without warning in her home across the street from this man’s home. She was friends with his daughter and a friend of him as well, so my family asked that man to be the emcee of her Memorial Service. He accepted with grace and humor, and we all knew it was the right choice. He joked that God must have given him a full year after diagnosis so that he could be around to do this for us. We all smiled sadly and agreed and laughed and hugged and cried together.
Six month ago, 2 1/2 years after his diagnosis, this same man was still alive and an active part of our community. It’s true that death is inevitable for all of us, so it was all about quality of life and enjoying every day he could with family and friends. Making memories, saying I love yous, living life with no regrets, and saying goodbyes. He was an inspiration.
Yesterday I got a text from this man’s daughter. “If you wanted to stop by today to say bye. Today is the day.”
I sobbed to myself, and then I pulled myself together and went over to their home. For me, for her, for him, for my sister-in-law. I’m not sure who I went for, but I know that just BEING there was important…for me, for his daughter, and for him.
I sat on his bed and held his hand and talked and cried. He could no longer talk, but I think he knew I was there. He squeezed my hand and opened his eyes and looked at me. I cried some more.
I don’t know if he passed on last night or not, I’m too afraid to ask his daughter, but either way it will be soon. Getting a chance to say goodbye to that amazing man yesterday was so bittersweet.
Sometimes I’m glad that my sister-in-law went so quickly. We didn’t get to say our final goodbyes, but we got to remember her smiling and laughing and giving our daughter kisses on the last night we saw her.
On the flip side, it’s a blessing in a way that my friend was given a chance to remember to live every day like it was his last. He dressed up as the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz just to make kids in the cancer ward smile. He gave locals and tourists alike rides around town in his vintage fire truck, running the siren and giving everyone a laugh. He went on vacations with his family and celebrated all of the every day wonders of this planet we call home. He lived and loved and said his goodbyes.
“Don’t wait for a diagnosis with a prognosis. LIVE.
Cheers, and remember, look both ways.”
I’ll miss you, M. Give Jaime a hug for me, would ya?