Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mortality Is Opportunity

I woke up to The Salt Lake Tribune this morning. There’s something intangible about pulling out the newsprint version and reading the paper over a cuppa sumpin’ that just starts the weekend off right.  That I’m doing it from a hospital bed makes it even better because it’s something that, in spite of being confined to this august institution of healing, I can have this little tidbit of routine in my life that until last Thursday, had been pretty, well, ‘normal.’

What struck me the most this morning is how the little things again mean so much. In reading through the paper, the usual political backbiting that makes all the news that’s fit to print, and a lot that isn’t, went by without much fanfare.  I updated myself with the stories that I had been following from NPR and moved on to local stories.  In the back of the local section, there are the obits. Before moving home to Utah, I didn’t even take a spin through that section because it was highly unlikely I’d run across a familiar name.  Here in Salt Lake where I grew up, I’ve seen grade school teachers I had and occasional familiar names or friends of friends. Today, I didn’t see anyone that I knew, but going back to a habit of when I was a kid, scanning through to see how old people are or when they’re young, how they died. Morbid curiosity, perhaps. One obit stood out. A pleasant smiling younger guy who died too young had succumbed to leukemia and while I’m not, in my mind, thinking my time has come, seeing something like that can’t help but make you think a bit, right?

Suffice it to say, that cuppa joe sure tasted so much more robust and the hot water in the shower was so much more delightful. The blue skies outside my window seem more vibrant and the fact that I feel no pain, nausea, or other discomfort, suddenly paled in the light of the newsprint smile of the obit. I’ve spent 50 years – a freakin’ half century – on this blue ball we call home. I’ve had the great privilege of seeing a lot of it through the Navy’s frequent flier program (aka deployments) and I’ve been given extraordinarily good health to enjoy it with, this little experience in the hospital notwithstanding. I have an incredible family and network of friends that so many people just don’t enjoy and if I were to meet my demise today, would be an extremely fortunate and blessed man.

Nikki, one of the great people here at the VA, got my PICC line all water-resistant and microwave safe for my shower this morning and brought me some stronger coffee that wasn’t part of my food tray. There is a special place in the afterlife for her, let there be no doubt! Something about doing to the ‘least of my brothers’ will land her in a wonderful coffee bar with seventy hunky baristas attending her every need, I am certain! Tammy, my über-nurse who ran interference with my run-in yesterday, will have a grand palace of her own where she will lack for nothing and be surrounded with the grateful smiles of those she has compassionately multiplied to her many patients over her years of service. I could include Daniel, the guy who never complains about emptying the trash and cleaning the room; I could add Tara, the nurse who attended me last week for one shift and remembered me this week to bring me down to a pizza party with the rehab patients so we could all be social; and I’ll have many more people to thank and recognize with my own grateful tears again as the days go on.

Even if you believe in reincarnation, we’re mortal beings and we have expiration dates stamped on our foreheads. I rather like to think we’re eternal beings of sorts although I can’t say exactly what that means. Who can, really? No one has the slide show from the other side to show us what’s in store. That said, I’m not going anywhere. Like I wrote yesterday, I have far too much ahead to fight for. Moreover, I have a lot of contributions I need to make and accomplishments yet to achieve and whether they are in the next few days or in the next few decades, I gotta get busy.

What about you?  What are you waiting for?

Don’t wait for the time to get introspective from a hospital room. Any one of us can make a positive difference and trust me, the little things really go a long way.

"God give me style and give me grace, God put a smile upon my face." -- Coldplay