Tag Archive: Life Lessons


Accountability

In the past week, former school resource office Scot Peterson arrested. We the citizens, we the country, former officers, legislators and parents of the victims willing vilify Peterson. For taking cover rather than confronting the killer, Peterson has been branded a coward, nationally heckled and vilified.

We vilify Peterson for failing to confront the Parkland school shooter, his retirement, his pension, and his life. As such, Broward County prosecutors charged Peterson with seven counts of child neglect with great bodily harm, three counts of culpable negligence, exposure to harm, and one count of perjury.

Damn it. Peterson’s responsible.

“He should rot, that’s how I feel,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was on the third floor when she died. “My daughter was one of the last to be shot. My daughter absolutely could have been saved by him and she wasn’t.”

“If Scot Peterson had done his job my son would be alive today,” said Linda Schulman, Beigel’s mother. “One hundred percent had he done something, the active shooter would not have made it to the third floor, had he done his job, instead of standing outside like a coward.”

How many are so positive their child would be alive today if Peterson acted remains unclear. But they’re positive.

“My heart is just beating because we’re over a year here and this is just now happening,” said Gena Hoyer, mother of 14-year-old Luke, who died in the shooting. “This is long overdue.”

“He needs to go to jail and he needs to serve a lifetime in prison for not going in that day and taking down the threat that led to the death of our loved ones,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter, Alyssa, 14, also died that day. “It was his duty to go into that building and to engage the threat, and he froze and he did nothing.”

 “It’s been a long time coming,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow, 18, was killed, also on the third floor. “Accountability is all I wanted, and now it looks like it’s happening.”

Accountability?

I am not a supporter of Peterson. If he failed, he failed. If he perjured himself, he should face the consequences. However, after we’re done staking this man to a cross, we need to take that same passion and convict ourselves – each and every one of us. We are just as responsible for every dead person, from Columbine to current. We can’t stake decades of pain upon one man.

If we convict him, we have to convict ourselves. Allow me to explain.

Since the Parkland shooting in February 2018, over forty school shootings have occurred. In the minutes and hours after Parkland, Florida shooting, politicians began what has become something of a grim ritual: offered “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and deflect.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimated that during the 2016 election, the NRA and affiliates spent a record $54 million to secure Republican control of the White House and Congress, including $30.3 million to help elect Donald Trump.

The NRA funneled more than $1 million to re-elect Senator Marco Rubio. John McCain garnered $7,000,000. Burr received $6.9 million. Blunt hauled in $4.6 million. Garner got $3.8 million. And so on, and so on and so on.

However, Americans elected Rubio, McCain, Burr, Blunt, Garner and so on, and so on and so. We accepted prayers from the masses, said it sucks and moved on.

NBC estimates Americans own an estimated 15 million AR-15s. Of the 340 mass shootings between 1966 and 2016, at least one handgun was used in 76 percent of events, compared to less than 30 percent of events that involved any rifle, not just those categorized as assault-style. Assault-style rifles in particular were present in 67 of the 340 shootings (20%).

In fact, since 2007, at least 173 people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States involving AR-15s, according to a New York Times analysis. The grim list includes crimes in Newtown, Conn.; Las Vegas; San Bernardino, Calif.; and now Parkland, Fla.

When we’re done vilifying Peterson, I hope God holds a mirror to our faces and publicly states:

“How about it? How many would be alive had YOU acted?”

I once heard a nurse refer to the cancer clinic waiting room as “cell block death.” She refused any notoriety as the originator, but its description stuck.

Cancer can be the ultimate waiting room. We wait for a diagnosis and then to learn more about our diagnosis. We wait for test results. Then we are in the ultimate waiting room after treatment, waiting to find out if our cancer will return and if we will ultimately survive our cancer. We wait for years wondering if we are safe, if we have beaten cancer.

The woman sat across from me, emotionally lost, either as a result of a broken romance, life changes from a serious illness, or maybe a demanding employer. In my time, I’ve seen a lot. Even though my shinning armor had rusted, I reached back into my days of dreamlike knighthood and reached out.

Huh? I’m sorry?

I asked if you were ok? You seem concerned.

Oh,” collecting herself. “My bossed called. Asked if my cancer treatment would impact my brain and thought process.”

God,” I said horrifyingly. “I am so sorry.

I am only on my second treatment. I have breast cancer, not brain cancer. I never experienced anything like this before. Have you?”

Ah,” chuckling nervously. “Ah,” pausing again, “Three weeks ago, a supervisor called the sister of a deceased employee three hours after the funeral and demanded when she would ship the company laptop to Information Technology.

Oh my God,” raising her palm to her lips. “That’s awful.

Yup,” with a pause. “When HR heard, HR sent an email to all managers to never, ever do that again, that any communications with a deceased employee’s family comes from HR.” Rolling my eyes, “Imagine, someone had to tell them this.

Sheesh,” shaking her head in disbelief.

Yeah, idiots are out there. Unfortunately, some are in management. When I was in consulting, I witnessed a CEO ghost-pepper mad that the company hadn’t fired an employee prior to receiving a liver transplant, ‘…it was going to affect our health-care plan,’ he stated.

She chuckled, “What kind of consulting was this?

Healthcare.

She roared in laughter. “Yet, here you are.”

Irony of ironies.” shrugging.

I handed a business card and requested that should she ever need someone, to either write an email or call. She smiled, slipped the business card and mouthed the words ‘thank you.’ In the days following, she has not contacted me.

Contrary to the public perception, the statement “first, do no harm” it isn’t a part of the Hippocratic Oath at all. “First, do no harm” is from “Of the Epidemics.” I’ve met many a ‘professional,’ both in and out of healthcare. Let me say this, helping the sick is ‘optional.’

For all on the road to kingdom come, it’s up to us to take care of the sick, the disabled or those in pain. If we see someone struggling with a heavy load or difficult task, we step in and share their burden – share the pain.

“Cancer is like being stuck in the middle of the road with a bus barreling down on you, but you can’t tell how close it is or when it’s going to hit you.”

~Susanne Kraus-Dahlgren~

I flew into St. Louis Friday to attend a memorial for a coworker who passed about a week prior. I remember the call.

Heart attack,” Ms. J. muttered while listening in stunned silence.

The pause was long.

Heart attack,” she whispered in disbelief.

Bob J. was a year-and-a-half older. At 61, he lived a wonderful life and was appreciated by many. Husband, father, caretaker to many abused pets. He was also a suffering Cubs fan. And if he had watched the ending of yesterday’s Cubs-Cardinals game in St. Louis last night, he be dead. So, maybe he got lucky.

Like many before us, I took it for granted that Bob would be around for years. I never told him of my tumor. I never bothered to figure out how I would broach the subject, I just figured he would always be around and I would ‘get to it.’

Life is strange. I attended the Saturday memorial. Late afternoon, I sit listening to jazz pumped via a Bluetooth headset while sipping ice tea at Barnes and Noble. In a few hours, I will sit at a bar and watch the Boston Bruins-St. Louis Blues hockey game. And all the while, I will look upon the lives before me and realize life goes on. Life always does. The world didn’t stop for Bob. It won’t stop for me either.

Of course old acquaintances gathered and gabbed memoriors from a life unavailable.

Ah, the good ol’ days,” Larry chuckled.

Ah, the ‘good ol’ days.’ It was a life before downsizing, when our business hummed at breakneck speeds. Bob, myself and countless others were part of that life. We remembered a life filled with Bob; a life filled with each other; a life filled with laughter. We told tall stories. We laughed. We shook hands. We promised to LinkedIn. We promised to connect. We promised to stay in touch.

We won’t.

None know my story. So, within the course of the normal ‘getting to know you‘ conversation, there are landmines to navigate . . . like how much to say. Friendships are fragile–come too strong, be written off–wait too long, become insincere. I mean, when is the right time to drop the “I’m going to die” bomb?”

How you doing?

Me?” pointing to myself. “Oh, I am going to die in a couple years. Maybe sooner.

Most haven’t learned what I learned, that the beautiful death portrayed by heroes and heroines in Hollywood film is an exception, not the rule.

Prior to Bob’s memorial, I took a customary shower. Gazing for a moment in the mirror, I realized how thin I’ve become. Clothes don’t longer fit. A belt with extra holes that compensates for a dwindling waste. Skin tinged from small streaks of purple, a byproduct of drugs oozing through my veins. There will be no verbal cue. No one will say it. But their eyes will verify that the rose-tinted death we all aspire will not occur me.

As a Buddhist, I realize y body is rented. The day is rented. Nothing will last. And if we live from a mindset of “I am entitled to this,” or “I deserve such-and-such,” we’ll get stuck trying to hold onto something no longer there. Either we change or the world will force us to change.

There are many lessons. First, life goes on – until it doesn’t. Second, the idea of having time for preparation, a time to say goodbye, to receive love and give love, is the kind of death any would choose is wonderful. We all want a death, without suffering, to do what we want to do. Only a handful will get it.

It would poetic for me to say my death should be free of pain, free from suffering, free of deterioration, and free of complications. But that’s not death. That’s a dream. Therefore, the goal should be to have a deeper compassion for others and a greater appreciation for the life that remains.

In doing that, life will go on. And that’s the final lesson Bob taught.

Five Lights

The Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team, apologized to U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) after the team aired a Memorial Day video honoring Veterans that depicted the New York Democrat as an enemy of freedom.

The Memorial Day video featured a speech from former President Ronald Reagan. In effect, it was right-wing propaganda completely at odds with the concept of “moral courage” alluded by Reagan. At about the 3:00 minute mark, Reagan references the “enemies of freedom.” Directly following that statement, was a pictorial montage of a single ANTIFA protester, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Ocasio-Cortez, former Cuban President Fidel Castro and anti-fascism protesters.

How is this possible? Well, I offer a personal story.

There are many who would love Ms. H. Others, not so much. Ms. H. is the type of person one either loved to hate or would love to love. Having known and worked for her for years, we had a cadence that mirrored some of the finest Swiss watches. Our movement glided with technical sophistication and conceptual finesse. In the business world, we were a rare ‘one-of-a-kind’ movement – never out of sync – never missing a beat.

Some coworkers suggested we should marry. In reality, our lives are quite different. The BMW convertible she drives was manufactured in Munich, Germany. Her iPhone assembled by Foxconn, in China. The Dell laptop she fires up every morning came from Chengdu City, China. The Cisco wireless routers installed in her home office were produced in China, Romania or Germany. The Tumi laptop bag Ms. H. shuttles from plane-to-plane is comprised of leather materials imported from Italy, but manufactured in China. Her favorite perfume, Chanel No 5, is made overseas as well.

During a recent conversation, I planned on informing her of my diagnosis, but never got it out. Instead we chatted on life, what we’ve accomplished since being downsized from Mega-Healthcare Inc. several years prior and what the future holds. Eventually, the conversation steered toward healthcare politics.

“Our patient President is so strong,” she muttered.

“How so?”

“He is just so strong and patient. And in the wake of fake news media and critics, he just waits them out, let’s the liberals pout. God, he’s just so strong. He’s just what America needs.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against ceding ground to populist forces. Instead, she indicated a need to show:

“… why we are for democracy, why we try to bring about solutions, why we always have to put ourselves into the other person’s shoes, why we stand-up against intolerance, why we show no tolerance towards violations of human rights.

And Trump contrasted against Merkel? You know, the “highly educated … know’s words” guy who espoused (Tweeted) upon several topics during his Memorial weekend while visiting Japan. New York Times reporter Anni Karni summarized:

“It was just after 6 a.m. on the final day of a state visit to Japan designed to flatter and entertain him, and President Trump was in his comfort space: Twitter.” Trump’s was, again, preoccupied by politics.

“Super Predator was the term associated with the 1994 Crime Bill that Sleepy Joe Biden was so heavily involved in passing,” he wrote of Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential front-runner. “That was a dark period in American History, but has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!” The day before, his mind had been on Democratic “obstructionists,” possible “treason” by Russia investigators, and the perfidy of the “fake news media.”

“I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse,” Mr. Trump wrote early on the first full day of his visit, referring to Kim Jong-un of North Korea, before a round of golf with Mr. Abe. “Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?”

Why does Trump do this? Lesley Stahl had the best answer.

“You know, this is getting tired. Why are you doing it over and over? It’s boring and it’s time to end that. You know, you’ve won … why do you keep hammering at this?” Stahl recalled.

And he (Trump) said: ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.’”

Some claim Trump uses NLP made popular by Anthony Robbins. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a behavioral technology, which simply means instilling a set of guiding principles, attitudes, and techniques about real-life behavior. It allows you to change, adopt or eliminate behaviors, as you desire, and gives you the ability to choose your mental, emotional, and physical states of being. Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, J.K. Rowling, Heston Blumenthal, Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Lily Allen, Gerri Halliwell, Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, Sophie Dahl, and Jimmy Carr are some of the people who use or have used NLP for their own development.

Countering that, a friend believes Americans are simply succumbing to the boiling frog theory. The boiling frog fable describes how a frog can be slowly boiled to death. Its premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water brought slowly to boil, it will not perceive the danger, thereby cooking to death. The fable is a metaphor for the either inability or unwillingness to react to threats that gradually arise.

However, contemporary biologists have long known the fable to be false: a frog, gradually heated, will jump out. Americans? Not so much.

Final Thought

Chain of Command” is a two-part episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation that aired during the sixth season. In this episode, Jean-Luc Picard is removed from command for a covert mission. The second episode is noted for Patrick Stewart’s intense depiction of brutal torture and interrogation.

During one scene, the torturer asks Picard how many lights are behind him, wanting him to respond with “five.” Upon saying there were four, Picard received another painful shock.

Once negotiations for Picard’s release had been made, Picard exclaimed “There! Are! Four! Lights!

It’s a personal moment of victory for Picard. Yet, later, Picard confesses to Counselor Troi that not only was he going to say whatever torturer wanted, but that he could actually see five lights. When given the choice, it’s easy to see how pride would be so small a price to pay, and how one could be convinced a lie was the truth.

Trump’s logic is convincing everyone that his lies are, in fact, truth. And the key to reelection rests in the American who accepts ‘five lights.’

After reading Rebecca Byerly’s piece in the New York Times, one cannot help but think of themself.

Isabella de la Houssaye and her daughter, Bella, struggled to breathe in the thin air of the high Andes as they trudged up a zigzag trail to the top of Aconcagua, the highest summit outside the Himalayas.

At an elevation of about 22,840 feet, it is often called “the roof of the Americas.” At this height, breathing is difficult and the risk of debilitating, even fatal, altitude sickness is a reality even for the strongest climbers.

Isabella has Stage 4 lung cancer, which makes breathing especially hard.

Houssaye made plans to go on adventures — maybe the final ones — with each of her children, ages 16 to 25. Climbing to “the roof of the Americas” with her daughter Bella was one of them.

I have to admit, Ms. Houssaye is both pretty damn strong and admirable. After my diagnosis, no such thoughts ever came to me. While it’s true I have no children; climbing mountains was never a personal forte. It’s not that I don’t have ‘desire,’ but I presume the term ‘desire‘ would be different for each person.

Several weeks prior, I Googled ‘things to do after a terminal diagnosis.’ Google retrieved an accouterment of suggested links, but each mostly centered upon either financial or ‘bucket list.’

Financially speaking, I both a will, and living will. Car paid? Check. Home paid? Check. Will updated? Check. Bucket list created? Check. Check. Check. And so on.

Moving to the bucket list, I compared mine to those found online. The first thought online writers conveyed was accountability. Meaning that If you made a bucket list goal public, theoretically others would hold you accountable. Should such accountability exist, one is much more likely to accomplish said goal(s).

Many writers start with travel. Visit Asia. Hmm, did that. Africa? Check. Australia? Check. Europe? Check. South America? Check. All 50 states in America? Check? Yosemite National Park? Check. North Pole (that’s North Pole, Alaska)? Check.

There are specific items such as Heli-Ski in Valdez, Alaska. Nope, no interest. Sell a House for a Profit? Check, been there, did that. Attend Coachella Music Festival? No interest. Experience Burning Man? No interest. Be an extra in a Hollywood movie? No interest. Whitewater rafting at Cherry Creek, California? No interest. Bench press 200 lbs? Been there, did that. Have coffee with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Did that (but had to listen to how wonderful he was in comparison to everyone else). Fly in a Fighter Jet? Did that. Parachuted? Yup. Spend a day shooting video with Peter McKinnon?

Who the heck is Peter McKinnon? … Sorry, I digressed.

So, did I learn anything of value? My one point of note came from Michael Riley’s 2017 column, 7 Life Lessons from the Movie “The Bucket List.

“Imagine you were told you had 6–12 months left to live,” he wrote. “Talk about terrifying. What would you do with your time left?”

Riley’s list included three that gave pause for thought.

  1. Death often comes out of nowhere.
  2. Find the joy in your life.
  3. Bring joy to other people’s lives.

In the movie “The Bucket List,” Carter tells Edward that when death occurs, the gods ask the person two questions: First, “Have you found joy in your life?” Second, “Has your life brought joy to others?” My experience with those dying suggest most neither remember the joy found in living nor the amount of joy brought to others.

Life isn’t meant to be all about me. Yes, my dreams and goals matter, but it’s really about my impact and legacy. How many people’s lives can I touch while I’m here? Likewise, how many people’s lives can you touch while you’re here? How can you be a role model for others?

Maybe therein lay the best to-do list for everyone. One To-do: What can I do with the remaining portion of my life that will bring joy to others?

‘All In’

According to Reuters, when choosing a flight, U.S. fliers apparently prefer ticket prices over air safety. In fact, recent safety issues of the Boeing 737 Max had had little impact. Only 3 percent said that aircraft or model was important when buying a plane ticket. In contrast, 57 percent said ticket price was critical.

However, Southwest Airlines passengers expressed concerns on social media after confusion over on-board safety cards led passengers to think they were flying on a Boeing 737 Max. In reality, Southwest had already grounded all 737 Max airplane and stated the safety card used can be used for more than one plane model, adding that safety procedures for the 737 Max and 737-800 are identical.

In other words, up to the point of takeoff, people were more concerned about. Unfortunately folks, at that point, it’s too late. You’re ‘all in.’ You’ve succumbed to fate.

In American usage, the phrase “all in” began as a colloquial expression meaning to be in a bad spot—exhausted, worn out, and spent. In the game of poker, it refers to the moment when a player—whether out of bravado, recklessness, or desperation—bets all of his or her chips on a single hand. The all-in moment in poker is a thrilling win-or-lose-everything crisis of dramatic clarity: you’ve wagered all you’ve got, giving your fate over to the cards, and you can’t go back out again.

“Can you drive me to my car? It’s late and I parked in an unsafe area after dark.”

“Why didn’t you park in the parking garage across directly across the street?”

“Well, the garage costs $90.00 a month,” she paused.

“And you didn’t want to pay $90.00 a month?” I interjected, finishing the sentence.

“Correct.”

Knowing the position she has at the firm, I’m fairly confident her annual salary nears $120,000 annually. Roughly speaking, she bet her life on $1,200 savings, a smidgen less than 1% of her salary.

“So, you placed savings above safety?”

“Huh?” she quipped.

“You bet personal safety for less than 1% of your salary?”

“Hey, don’t jinx me,” she snapped. Continuing, “You’ll be responsible if I get hurt.”

“Yes, I will feel bad if you get injured. However, you went ‘all in,’ not me'”

History will tell you that going all in is often a spectacularly bad idea. In life though, it seems all good. In life we hope many of poker’s words and phrases bring forth a sense of romance and drama that break the normal mundane activities of life. in many cases, we simply want to up the ante.

In life, almost everything contains some level of risk; the key to success is to identify an appropriate risk tolerance and then manage the that tolerance. In some instances, this may mean avoidance of any loss is appropriate, but in others moderate losses may be tolerable. In my friend’s case, there’s appears to little reward in gaining less than 1% reward. Sure, should she live that same routine over a decade, the reward would equal nearly $12,000. Then again, a decade of wages would net $1,200,000. The risk reward remains at 1%.

Going ‘all in.’ Wagering everything for the 1% is why Vegas almost always wins.

Pretty stupid.

When Tiger Woods was criticized for receiving the Medal of Freedom, one could presume he would accept the honor based upon his comments from August 2018:

He’s the president of the United States. You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office.”

In awarding the medal, Trump called the champion golfer “a global symbol of American excellence, devotion, and drive.”

“Tiger, we are inspired by everything you’ve become and attained. The job you’ve done is incredible,” Trump said to Woods. “Your spectacular achievements on the golf course, your triumph over physical adversity and your relentless will to win, win, win; these qualities embody the American spirit of pushing boundaries, defying limits and always striving for greatness.”

“He’s also a great person. He’s a great guy,”

No. He’s not. Elin Nordegren might beg to differ.

In the age of Trump, Woods’ comments is a tough sell. Trump has turned every day into a political litmus test that no one or no cause has been spared. For Woods’ to say he respects the office (the Presidency) is in effect having an opinion. Silence is a betrayal.

This is a presidency many athletes have rightfully chosen to not respect. Respect goes to those who don’t call people “sons of bitches” and hope they lose their jobs for protesting racism. “Respecting the office” means not disrespecting, not just “the office,” but people of color, immigrants. women, the disabled, older Americans on welfare … Tragically, the list is long Trump rants stand as an ugly testament to his petty hatreds.

However, Mr. Woods and PGA alike, I will do what neither couldn’t – I will never watch another PGA tournament again.

As one Twitter user noted:

Woods might be a talented player. But he’s not a great person.


P.S. ….

Many years ago, a young associate stood on a New York subway, awaiting a train that would take him near the river. It was nearing 5:38 PM and warmth from the Springtime sun lured him from the hotel for several hours of sightseeing. Unbeknownst to him, at that very moment, another man stood squished in an already overcrowded railway car. The repetitive back and forth motion of the train, side-to-side swagger, added to either bad meal, seasonal allergies or an oncoming cold as the trained hurled forward.

Just as ordained, the associate and the ill man met, albeit ever briefly. The transit line stopped in front of my coworker. The doors opened. The man inside threw-up outward toward the platform, hitting my associate chest high. Two seconds later, train doors closed and pulled away.

Turning around, “Why me?” he asked.

Welcome to New York,” an elderly man quipped.

So many things in my life were insignificant as they occurred. Most were overly dramatized, either by the people involved or indulgently over told throughout the years. The memories I’m absorbing from treatment may not be precious to others, but each encounter and quip offers more wisdom than the sum of all valuables in my home. I have learned memories are valuable.

And my current memories? They don’t consist of the tumor. It’s the smaller things like nausea.

After downing another round of medications, I remember my associate in New York. Side effects started 24 hours later. It was the first time I experienced such heavy nausea. If one could bargain with the ol’ ‘Lord of Nausea,’ I would schedule all this for Election Day 2020 to avoid having to decide the pending presidential election. But alas, the bugger arrived at 9:04 AM, just after starting speaking at an internal company meeting.

Now I’ll admit, this is one heck of a way to out myself and my treatments to the entirety of the company. But I was exceedingly quick for ‘Mr. Nausea.’ I attributed my difficulties to allergies, to which, I’ve neither had nor taken medicine for. For a brief moment, I thought of hurling all over Alan. Alan was a prick from day one. So much so that I nearly called him Mr. Prick during a meeting. However, I lost my opportunity as everyone ditched the room, leaving me like a dead goldfish in a glass bowl.

After Mr. Nausea stopped, I defiantly walked to my desk. I expected a HAZMAT team but was greeted by Ms. Ginger C., former drill sergeant and reformed nurse, with lemon tea and orange wedges.

Picked them six months ago,” she pointed.

Sure there are still good?

Probably,” she noted. “But you look like shit anyway. What difference will it make?

Hard to argue logic, regardless of delivery. I downed the orange wedges.

If there’s one thing, I learned about life, that when S*** happens, it’s essential to develop one key skill: humor. It’s not that reasoning skills aren’t necessary. However, humor and humility will allow most to be successful in whatever situation encompasses us. And when dealing with Mr. Nausea, humor is critical.

In the movie Jack Reacher, Helen told Reacher he was wrong.

You were wrong about my father,” Helen stated.

Yeah, let’s not make a big thing of it.”

In Closing

I read a story of a fast-food employee near Houston who allegedly punched a co-worker after the coworker gave away the ending of Avengers: Endgame. MSNBC reported Justin Gregory Surface received an assault citation. Surface’s life got flushed for a spoiler easily read online.

Everyone gets shit in life. Most of it isn’t significant. There are so many other huge things coming down the pike. When S*** comes your way, take a breath. Try not to spend endless hours fumigating ‘why.’ Tumors are a big deal. Nausea? Not so much. So, when nausea visits again, I will channel Reacher.

Let’s not make a big thing of it.”

I awoke stiff. Without personally checking emotion at the door, I could have screamed — the cervical bones within, and maybe the tumor within, grows angrier each day. Still, things moved. Legs worked. Arms worked. Fingers grasped. Nothing seemed to operate efficiently as yesterday.

It’s a sick person’s life. The body groans. Maybe it’s a moaning borne from careless days of abandoned discretion, discarded thoughts and pushing the barriers of my body beyond natural law.

My brother asked, “What caused the tumor? Something caused it.”

In truth, it could have been a wanton disregard of my body. Maybe carelessness. Maybe even genetics. Could also have been exposed to white phosphorus emissions, a heavy dose of radiation, exhaust carcinogens from having worked 12 years a slave for American Honda or any number of exposures.

I could only muster, “Life. There is no reason. Shit happens.”

“Maybe there’s a ‘new normal,’” he replied.

A new normal. Hmm. ‘New normal?’ How does one define ‘new normal?’

For anyone with a terminal illness, there comes the point in time when ‘normal’ undergoes several stages of metamorphosis. Paraphrasing from Heinrich Harrer, “I am now in a place where time stands still, yet everything moves.” Prediagnosis, the world stopped for no one. Post-diagnosis, the world stopped for no one. All of us are skateboarders on a cosmic marble.

Life continues regardless of trials, tribulations or triumphs. At work, there are projects, plane tickets, phone calls and money spent to complete them all. Nights are filled with my mother’s surgeries, my father’s dementia, and any number of assorted crises from friends, family and neighbors alike. Strangely, each offers a reprieve from my burden, yet none affords the pardon silently sought.

My life stopped April 22, 2019, 1:09 PM. Diagnosis? Tumor. I wonder if others experienced the same.

I’m not an expert in medical systems, PET or MRI. But I’ve had enough training from countless EHR installs that even I could tell across the room. My PET scan measured how much work cells were doing. Cancer is very active. And part of my neck scan looked light city at night, from an airplane. When there is no cancer, the film appears dark. “Double Fucked,” or DF, as some nurses call it, looks like downtown Los Angeles. My scan didn’t look like Los Angeles. Instead, it looked like Saint Louis.

The doctor used many words — the last few reinforced what I already knew. Treatment will focus on arresting the tumor. “Quality of life,” not cure.

The EHR delivered the scan electronically. I read it on April 22, 2019, 1:09 PM. The day my life stopped.

An acquaintance from work noticed I was lost in thought.

Homesick?

Interesting question,” I thought. “Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for upstate New York. I often think of walking the banks of the Hudson River, where I can still hear the cries of wild geese and deer as they darted throughout the clear, cool moonlight. I remember no other home, not even that of my childhood where I can be so instantly immersed.

Admittedly, I wished to have been walking the Hudson, where both comfort and hope percolated and bathed the soul. It’s where I felt the presence of God, just as I do now. And just like MacClean wrote, “I am haunted by water.” The Hudson haunts me.

Laying in bed, a breeze spilled through the open window. I mustered to sit forward and peered outward at the cars three-quarters of a mile away. A silence fell upon me. There, in the late-night silence, my thoughts stirred. Not everyone will understand my journey. And that’s OK. I have to this life, for I can live no other.

Once again, I paraphrased Harrer, looked up to the stars above, and silently whispered unto the heavens.

I can’t say I know where you want me to go, nor if my bad deeds can be purified. There are so many things I have done that I regret. But when I come to a full stop, I hope you understand that the distance between us is not as great as others may claim.”

I rolled back to bed and muttered to the Godly presence still with me.

It’s not what has happened to me that counts, it’s how I choose to respond. I will give my best.”

Laid quiet for some time. I sighed heavily for a moment. Just like others before and after me, my life will change irretrievably; priorities, aspirations, and promises would go unfulfilled.

By the way, please start time again?”

On December 22, 1944, at about 11:30 in the morning, a group of four German soldiers, waving two white flags, approached the American lines using the Arlon Road just south of Bastogne.

The Germans sent soldiers to take the American surrender. Awoken from a deep sleep, Brig. Gen. McAuliffe, said “Nuts!” The response was typed and delivered by Colonel Joseph Harper, commanding the 327th Glider Infantry, to the German delegation. It read accordingly:

December 22, 1944

To the German Commander,

NUTS!

The American Commander.

In March, I read of a Kaiser Permanente robot rolling into a patients room in the intensive care unit and telling an elderly patient by video he would likely die within days. In some ways, I felt more fortunate. Mine were posted on my EHR account. It was ‘transactional.’

A tumor in the neck measuring 4.1 x 2.3 in transaxial dimensions and 3.7 cm in height (1.6 inches x .9 inches x 1.4 inches), surrounding the spinal cord and C5-C6. Preliminary indication benign. Requires biopsy. Metastatic or secondary tumors may spread from another site. Delicate neural structures will complicate treatment, resulting in nerve compression, spinal deformation and compromised bone strength.

There’s good news and bad news. Good news: Highly likely the tumor is benign. Bad news: Tumor is the size of a walnut, surrounds the spinal cord and or nerves. Prognosis? Nuts.

Nuts!

Every day someone gets the news that a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. The shock, accompanied by a ferocious sense of foreboding and a powerful dose of premature grieving, can be overwhelming and paralyzing. However, my first inclination was not despair. The gnawing torment some experience never occurred. No nausea. No dread. No anxiety. Using the Kubler-Ross five stage model as a measuring stick, I leapfrogged denial, anger, bargaining, depression and landed on acceptance.

I’ve known since 2014 that my internal clock was running out. I cannot explain it. I instinctively knew death was nearing. My time working in hospitals reveals that even if loved ones refuse to discuss death, the patient knows it is coming. I just presumed it would have been quicker, for five years later, I’m still around. However, in the annals of life, 5 years ago is just a moment ago.

So, what’s next?” my boss asked.

I doled out a usual quip, “Burning a hole through my deductible.”

What I really thought was “Relationships.”

Author Karen J. Warren wrote in 2016 that she was diagnosed with terminal illness. As she confronted the truth about her medical condition. She articulated the personal, philosophical, and medical issues when discussing end-of-life options. However, the following stays with me.

I knew that what gives my life meaning, what really matters to me, are relationships—relationships with myself, with other people, with animals, with the natural world. Creating or nurturing these relationships is what I value most.

The precious time I have left matters! I found myself asking, “Will doing this or saying that make a positive difference to my health or enhance my well-being?” For example, does it make a difference to me whether I participate in a research program, take an X-ray or have a mammogram? My guiding principle has been this: “If doing something makes a positive difference in my life or enhances my well-being, then do it; if it doesn’t, then don’t do it.”

So, nuts.

I will do something that many fail to do: Focus on things that will make a positive impact.

You should too.

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