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According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first time GOAT (Greatest of All Time) originated in September 1992, when Lonnie Ali, Muhammad Ali’s wife, incorporated G.O.A.T. Inc. Since then, others have helped themselves GOAT, often through others, and adorning fans. For example, L.L. Cool J released an album titled ‘G.O.A.T.’ Tom Brady was officially G.O.A.T.d’ in 2017, but Hank Aaron was not, simply for lacking a Most Valuable Player award. 

My experience of an actual G.O.A.T. occurred when watching ‘The Pride of The Yankees.’ One day, in Detroit, Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) tells Yankees manager Joe McCarthy he has become a detriment to the team and benches himself. I can only imagine the amount of inner strength and inner courage to realize when one has become a detriment and when it’s time to sit out. But, unfortunately, I can’t recall ever seeing such character until the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games when Simone Biles stepped aside.

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“Excited?” Maria asked as she placed a slice of cake in front of me and sat to my left. “I mean, it’s here. It’s finally here.”  Then, leaning in, “It’s here.”

“Weird. It just feels weird,” I responded while typing ‘execution commands’ on my laptop. I momentarily glanced at the memo taped over the cake, candy, chips, assorted snacks, bottles of sparkling juice, party streamers, ribbons, and helium-filled balloons. 

“COVID Tiger Task Force Deactivation.” the internal memo broadcasted to staffers. The shutdown comes as the pandemic continues. The U.S. will eclipse 610,000 deaths by Summers’ end, while the global death toll currently exceeds 4.1 million. As we approach deactivation, the entire team was focused on ensuring a smooth transition of key members back to normal business operations. Yet, I am unsure what ‘normal’ was anymore.

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There’s a ton of historical NDE experiences, some dating back centuries. Their stories are similar to those told in hundreds of books or websites (including mine). Though details vary across, there are many commonalities, including floating upward, viewing the scene of their death; spending time in a different realm, meeting relatives, feeling God, or something like ‘complete love.’ Once all that occurs, the person is told to return to live another day. For many, the person reports the experience was not a dream but “authentic,” changes profoundly post-NDE, and has a hard time returning into everyday life. 

My recent experience is similar, but not totally. Here’s a recap.

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My body did not experience any significant trauma. There was no earthquake. No carjacking went wrong, nor was I violently assaulted. My condo unit did not collapse, and I was not involved in a car wreck. Neither did I neither fall down the stairs nor overdose. I did not experience a heart attack and didn’t see the ‘light’ during an operation. All I did was fall asleep in a recliner.

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If the story is correct, my father and his mother-in-law (my mother’s grandmother) never got along. Their lives was one elongated aggravating gunfights where one side just can’t find and kill the guy. Each side had the other’s address, what car they drove, knew where they worked (in the case of my father, where he worked that week), and knew each other’s mannerism’s and quirks. As the decades flew, instead of warm conversations and reminiscent thoughts of love, the two would annually replicate the ‘Christmas Truce,’ whereupon Christmas Day, all World War I warring factions ceased, crawled out of the trenches, agreed to share a holiday meal, and returned to trenches after that. I mean, how could one resist wishing the other a Merry Christmas, even though the war will continue? They had a need for chaos. My father delivered.

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Every time I meet someone in grief, I realize they are not alone in the grieving process. And when you’re grieving, you never know when you will receive an unexpected telephone call, a neighbor knocking at the door with several cups of coffee and an offer of companionship, or a sudden FaceTime call from a once-distant relative. 

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One day, Tom Turcich decided to walk the world. He left in April 2015, and except for returning to the U.S. for recovery, obtaining visa requirements, and sitting out the pandemic, he’s continued to hike, covering 39 countries and approximately 19,000 miles. He’s posted many Instagram messages. A December 2016 Instagram message caught my eye, and then my heart.

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Eighty percent (80%) of those impacted by osteoarthritis experience pain. The most common symptom is acute pain – often deep-searing pain. For the longest time, it was hard to relate. Sure, my muscles exploded in pain, frequently from the simplest of movement. The most extreme form of osteoarthritis pain I experience comes from walking when the pain becomes so significant that the body stops whatever it is doing and says, “F*** it. We’re done. I am done until everything calms down.” I have always been grateful my body has down in the middle of a New York City crosswalk during rush hour, running from an avalanche, or just as a tsunami approaches. (Although sitting on a toilet during a Los Angeles earthquake was my biggest fear). I always presumed I experienced ‘maxed out.’ I was wrong.

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Many cancer patients claimed to have experienced weight loss. Weight loss may even be the first notable symptom of the disease. Forty (40%) percent of cancer patients claim to have experienced unexplained weight loss. Clinicians will tell you weight loss from cancer is different from other types of weight loss. Doctors refer to it as “cachexia” (wasting of the body). Cachexia causes increased metabolism, muscle loss, fatigue, and decreased quality of life. 

For months I experienced fatigue. Then all of a sudden, nothing. Little or no back pain. No neck pain. Little or no knee pain. Little or no muscle cramps. However, somewhere between last week and this morning, I lost 12 pounds. This loss was not a matter of choice, as in I decided some fancy-schmancy diet. Neither did I embark on a 200-mile hike, bike 50 miles each day, or train for an Olympic marathon. Instead, I did what I always did, I came home, made dinner, and watched the Cubs. (Last night’s destruction came courtesy of the Cleveland Indians.) I suppose I could have looked for my 12 pounds. Then again, maybe I lost 1.7 pounds per day, and I failed to notice. Either way, they were gone. 

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Captains Log, Stardate 99105.44. “Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking warned humans must colonize another planet or face extinction. To save humanity, 500 members of humanity’s best boarded the Starship Kodesh (means ‘special’ or ‘set aside’). If you hear this message, it means the ship has completed its mission to Proxima Centauri [closest potential exoplanet to earth]. However, all proem of human life ceased. In the end, everyone died. Humanity killed us.”

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