“So, we have a couple of hours. What’s your story?” asked the nurse bending over and connecting the radioactive die to enhance the imaging. 

“Well, I started in the military to be one thing, and now I’m here, doing something completely different.”

“Not that story,” she muttered.


“I don’t want to hear about the job you dreamed of and the job you are now. I want to hear about people. I want to hear about what made you who you are today? Give it to me straight.”

So, I told her. I described the asshole I was, the asshole I grew into being, and how that asshole has diminished into a peaceful existence these past twelve years. I told of how hard it is to change, how hard it is not to have ill thoughts, how hard it is to command my mind in clarity and peace.   

I discussed how the young man who saw God on Christmas Eve in 1978 became this person I’d only seen on television. Compared to the local Guamanians, my hands were pale, clean, and smooth. Neither bore remanent of a lifetime’s work in the hot sun, nor understood the heat, grime, and labor my father persevered through. I never knew my father’s suffering. I didn’t care to know. I marched to the beat of my drum.

 “My own drum” is the spoiler, not only for me but many others as well. I didn’t take God’s love for me and use it for others. Instead, I discarded it in some ditch only to find it again when I, too, was thrown in the gutter. So there were we, God and I in a ditch. It’s not the idyllic scene you would want hundreds of thousands to hear. I had no ‘awe-inspiring stories,’ no cliches, no “you are a spiritual being having a human experience.” None of that. 

Now, as I die, I relive every memory. It used to be that life was automatically separated. There are those experiences before 2010 and those after. There are those before 2010, those in-between 2010 and 2019, and those between 2019 and current. In those memories are the dreams of my mother and father, that either my brother or I could live the American dream. Still, if my father looks at me today, does he see disgust or maturity? Maybe he considers both.

I told my newfound friend that I never went to an elite institution. Between classes, I never walked across the Stanford Campus. I neither heard a lecture from a Harvard professor nor Princeton, Yale, or Massachusetts Institute of Technology (good ol’ MIT). Instead, my education came by wandering the Halls of Western Illinois University and Villanova. They are equally great schools, but they are not the type that slips off your tongue while sipping a late-night glass of brandy with a Harvard man.

What does make us equal is cancer. Having spent countless hours in many a waiting room, I learned cancer equals the Harvard man and Western Illinois guy. Cancer destroys excellent and evil (I willingly place many parts of my life in the latter). Cancer diminishes everything you are, everything you’re about until nothing is left and nothing is right. In the waiting of life, all I could debate was being less.

I was’ lesser for much of my life. I was the last guy picked on teams. I was the guy who was left out. I was diminished. I was the loaf of lousy bread donated to the poor. I neither fulfilled any prophecy nor healed the sick. And while there are many times when I brought good to a significant amount of people, all I can relive is the pain. It’s as if I repeatedly crucify myself, over and over, in an endless loop. But there’s no more time; there’s just this (as I look and the intravenous lines purring liquid through my veins). Yet, while cancer taketh, caner provides.

Cancer has augmented life and made me better. I am a better employee. I am a better son (my mother). I am more contemplative and write this blog as evidence of my lessons, faith, and trials. Therefore maybe I’m smarter. Perhaps, in the final synopsis, while I ruined my life, God has taught and provided an opportunity to become better and more incredible than I might have been.

“Wow,” she said. “That’s a hell of a story.” Silence engulfed the room for several moments. “You know, if it’s true, every follower of Jesus had a not-so-great ‘before,’ the nurse said after listening to my story. “There are careless fishermen, a pious religious leader, demon-possessed people, an unrighteous tax collector, and so on. Why not you?” 

I nodded to her while remembering a 2020 blog entry. 

Suddenly, I found myself standing near the beach I’d seen so many times, a beach I expected to stay for eons. But, instead, the water was calm, and the sand was peaceful.

“Why are you here?” she whispered.

Overlooking my right shoulder, I recognized Ms. K. through the mist. She was smiling gently. 

“For some reason, I tried to find you and couldn’t. I felt lost. I returned here as I did not know where else to go.”

I told you that ‘You are welcome in my home.’ If you can’t find me, I will come and get you.

She reached out with her hand (implying ‘Come.’).

I replied, “I believe a life worth living is one filled with success and failure. There’s joy and sorrow, relief and suffering. But above all, I believe God has a purpose for every one of us. In the end, He will revolutionize everyone.