Losing family and friends is a very tough part of living.
If they die quickly, people say it was too sudden. If they linger, it is difficult watching the slow decline. This is a story about a very good friend who recently passed after a short, but a very difficult encounter with cancer.
A little background – many years ago, I met Chris and Matt while working at the same company. During this time, they invited me bird hunting and fishing and we became fast friends. After my divorce from my first wife, Chris, Matt, and I decided to split the expenses and rent a house.
Together we lived big; fishing for grouper in the Gulf, playing seriously competitive wiffleball in our backyard and an occasional game of combative basketball. The competition was always tough, but we all laughed, joked, and never took it too seriously. We shared a house in the country, so we all spent many weekend mornings taking long runs on nearby country roads.
Marathons were our ultimate goals so, separately and together, we trained and ran the New York and Marine Corp Marathons along with many other races.
Chris was a former Marine, so he always carried that Marine Corp toughness in any physical competition. There was a time when we all planned to run the Tallahassee half marathon.
On the Wednesday prior to the race, Chris suddenly declared he was going to run the full marathon on the following Sunday. We all laughed at such a notion, but sure enough, he entered and completed the 26.2-mile course in a very respectful time.
Chris was very proud that I have been happily married to Morgan for 31 years. This is a very funny story for a different time and place. But Morgan and I started back dating and subsequently married because I lost a bet with him.
Over time we all married and had growing families. With these priorities, fishing trips became few and far between. For the past 30+ years, Chris and I still spoke on the phone almost every day. It was typical guy talk giving each other a hard time while laughing about escapades in our earlier lives. Oh, the stories we could tell…
Late in October, he shared that he was having a tough time swallowing; he said it felt like swallowing broken glass. Soon he could no longer eat food. This was the start of the tough path of cancer treatments. He was tough and weathered multiple chemo and radiation treatments. We still checked in with each other most days. He never felt sorry for himself or complained. He always told me there were others who had it worse. We wanted to help and go visit but he was steadfast and saying he did not want anyone to see him after so much weight loss.
I will not go into all the details of this time period, but it was not easy. I also have great respect for his wife, his caregiver, who diligently stood by his side during this tough ride.
One recent Sunday his brother called me. He said you better act quickly and go to his bedside. Morgan and I immediately jumped into the car and headed to his house. This was very tough, but I am happy I was able to share my feeling with him (if he could hear me). His wife and daughter were traumatized because the end was rapidly approaching. To help ease the situation, we all sat and shared stories about Chris and his life.
His wife and daughter were traumatized because the end was rapidly approaching. To help ease the situation, we all sat and shared stories about Chris and his life.
The next morning the call came. You think you are prepared but you never are prepared for this moment. The entire day it felt like gravity was running at 150%, the weight was so heavy. This 40-year relationship had a huge impact on my life.
During these moments, thoughts wander, and I ask the universe “What really happens when you die? Does it just go dark or is there another dimension where we transition?”
I have experienced several sacred moments and I am certain that there is something out there. For me, the question of the ages is, what is this light or dimension? I am certain that it is about love and connection.
Sooner or later all of us will get this final call home. Even though this sounds cliché, live each day like it is your last and share your love with everyone. Every day is your opportunity to leave a legacy of love and connection.
So, I urge you to grab a family member or friend, or four-legged friend. Go for a walk and talk about the positive memories of those who have passed from this world. Carry forward what you have learned from them. Seize the day. Love is all you need.
Are you in?
Contact Gregg Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.