#1097 – Dick Bernard: A Reflective Time

Hawaii roadside Dec 15001

Roadside monument to someone, probably a young person, who died near Kawaihae HI Dec. 2015

A few days ago a few folks in California, Tennessee and Florida won the largest lottery in history.  Judging from the news, there was, even knowing the chances of winning were near zero, the thrill of the dream of riches with almost no effort!
The day after the drawing, I had my date with the Internist (annual physical) and Eye Doctor (annual checkup).
A few days before, at coffee after church, my fellow usher friend, call him John, and his wife, Mary, were sitting with me.  Mary not too long ago was a fellow usher with us.  This particular day her Alzheimers took over.  She was uncommunicative, and abruptly walked away.  John knew the drill.  He caught up with her, and they left.
There were no departing words, there didn’t have to be….  Theirs is a very long and loving marriage with several grown children, and such is the lot of their lives at this moment in time.  He has retired from his job, because she needs his full-time care.
And so it is.
The day after the checkups, I attended a very large funeral for a colleague from many years ago.  I didn’t know Bob well, but in our mutual context from about 1972-75, he was a stellar person, a dependable and valued colleague.  The attendance at the funeral was not surprising. He spent his time “on the court” of life.
He had died suddenly, shoveling snow.  He was 77.
Arriving home, my wife told me that the elderly lady across the street, the always pleasant person who I saw just weeks ago walking with her dog to pick up the mail, had just died; there were no details.  Last time I saw her ,she was her usual pleasant self, about to head for some time in Florida with her daughter and son-in-law.
This morning, giving blood, the attending nurse who I’ve become friends with, allowed that five people from her high school class have died in recent years, all from cancer.  She’s probably 25 years younger than me, and while her class was a large one, still….
Both the Internist and the Eye Doctor had a minimum of serious looks as they checked me over this year.
I even passed the memory test given by the pleasant nurse before hand.  So for me it was a good day.  Hopefully, the next visit with both of them is a year from now.
I could extend the above list considerably, of course.  For all of us, life happens.
There is an “end of the road”, in temporal terms, and the more miles our vehicle has traveled, and the rougher the road, the closer the destination is.
Thankfully we’re mostly spared that memo which specifies the day, hour and cause of death.
We all just know that we are somewhere along the route.
One thing I’m sure of: if we’re fortunate to have medical insurance, especially medicare for the elderly, we can almost be assured of a longer and better quality of life than those who preceded us.
The practice of medicine (emphasis on “practice”), with all its abundant and well publicized problems, is in the greatest part full of caring professionals who do their best.
That dreaded memory test is useful to help notice a symptom.  Mary’s ailment probably could not be prevented, but it is helpful for her husband to know earlier, and be prepared.
In the end, I’m reminded of the long ago words of the wise pastor at the same Church I attended the funeral on Friday.
Perhaps 40 years ago, a teacher I knew, Myron Way, died in a car accident enroute to a national conference, perhaps Boys Nation.  He was probably in his 40s, then.
Pastor Hyllengren said, and I’ve always remembered this: “Myron lived before he died; and he died before he was finished.”  “Too many of us”, the pastor continued, “die before we’ve even lived”.  His reference seemed to be a passive approach to life itself: we don’t live, and then we die.  We wait to win the lottery, in vain.
Bob lived….
I’m not sure I remember Pastor Hyllengren as he intended; but he’s not around to challenge my interpretation.
Let’s make every day, a day we win the lottery, just by showing up.
POSTNOTE from Kathy: Thanks for writing your thoughts and sharing. “Be faithful to the day” a 102 year old nun told me…her mantra for life.
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