This is a bit of a long story and certainly not for the faint of heart. I do promise however, that if you are able to make it through to the end, there might be something that will inspire you to live your best life possible.
It was near the end of October 2019, only three short months after Barney’s passing, when I had decided I was in the mood for breakfast. I frequented a diner that made my sunny-side-up eggs to perfection along with bacon that was always just crispy enough and black coffee that always tasted like a fresh pot had been brewed for my arrival.
As I finished my meal in record time and headed over to the counter to pay my bill, I spotted a familiar face, a man that I had loved deeply from my past, sitting in the last booth with another individual. I didn’t want to stare and wasn’t even sure our eyes would meet, but they did for those elusive few critical seconds.
I didn’t wave. I didn’t smile. I didn’t want to interrupt. I just swiftly walked to my parked car wondering why after no communication or bumping into each other for nearly four years, our paths would suddenly intersect.
A month went by and there, sitting in my inbox, was my answer. The message was succinct and to the point. It simply read, “I have lung cancer that has spread to my brain and bones. Would you like to have a cup of coffee with me?”
I stared at those life threatening words which pounded over and over in my head while my heart palpitated in unison with the full marching band that had temporarily taken up residency in my left temple.
My emotions were spinning and spiraling out of control as I sat and thought about what exactly my reply might mean. I knew the statistics about this evil disease as I had watched my own Dad succumb to the same illness eighteen years prior. After careful deliberation and one simple but assertive touch, I hit send. I answered, “Yes. What day works best for you?”
We met the following week and reminisced and talked about all the challenges that had taken place during our time apart and, of course, about his cancer that was searching for new body parts to invade. As weeks passed and morning coffee became a habit, three times a week, I also found it imperative to openly speak about our mortality and having important documents in order.
My sister and I had been fortunate enough to have sat down with our parents when we were young adults to talk about the difficult, but indisputable reasoning behind the necessity of having prepared wills. We were taught about the fragility of life and how documenting our wishes and wants would ultimately give us peace of mind while ensuring that our loved ones left behind would have an easier time with access to accounts and assets while dealing with a tidal wave of grief.
I worried about his beautiful cat, Mia, who had been his constant companion for 13 years. With a will severely out of date, I knew this furry little soul had no definitive place to go when God called my friend home.
Everything was okay until it wasn’t toward the beginning of 2021. He started experiencing a new and unfamiliar pain. My stomach tightened as I watched him point to this new area of discomfort. Without knowing what the scans would reveal, instinctively, I knew that this was the ugliness of cancer and its unstoppable growth. I secretly prayed it was something much less sinister, but my prayers went unanswered. As I helped put on his pair of socks, with a lump of complete dread in my throat and hands that were barely functioning, off he went to the hospital with one sock on correctly and the other inside out.
As days quickly turned into a week at the hospital and a stroke further complicated any ounce of hopeful thinking, I started praying for peace and for God’s mercy to be kind.
We never really know what life will hand us, but we do know that life and death go hand in hand. Having the strength to talk about the hard issues ahead of time can help us cope when we seem weakened beyond repair.
May you rest in peace my friend. Your body is now free from physical pain and you can now experience joy in every way imaginable. Your life on earth will never be forgotten and your little Mia will know and recognize unconditional love until she is reunited with you once again.