If this blog ever had a subtitle I think it might be something like, “Writing Really Obvious Things in a Roundabout Sort of a Way”.
That’s what I do here mostly: I write things that people rarely bother to disagree with, mostly because those things I write are so very bloody obvious.
I’ll be doing it again this week.
Writing really obvious things in a roundabout sort of a way.
So… fair warning.
On Friday, a very good friend of mine announced on Social Media that he had been given only a couple of years to live. The reaction to this was predictable. ‘The Best’ is a mere handful of people and this guy is definitely one of ‘The Best’. I won’t write his name. Ninety per cent of the people who read this will know who I mean and, for the other ten percent, well…
I’m not here to break the bad news.
I’m just here to say obvious things about it, in a roundabout sort of a way.
In talking about this news, I’m going to persist in relating it to me rather than to anybody else. I think that’s best. But please keep in mind that I could just as easily be talking about you. I want this to be a subliminal paragraph. I want you to note it in the back of your mind but then immediately forget it. Snap. Done.
When I heard the news (oh, boy) I reacted with much sadness and some disbelief. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t good and the person in question deserved so-much-better.
Here’s the point though.
I subconsciously assigned myself a role in this story as ‘The Person who Stays Behind’. The person who has to live on for a long time without the comfort of knowing that my friend will be out there in the world. In my version of events, I would have to live out all my many years without my friend. I would miss him and I would be very sad to see him go.
I was so taken up with my naturally-assumed role as Spectator in the story that I missed the truth of the matter almost entirely. It took me a little while to come to it. In writing about his illness as he so wonderfully did, my friend wasn’t just giving me his bad news,. He was giving me a little truth as well, if I only cared to see it.
He has, all going well, a couple of years to live and I know for sure that he’s going to live it to the full. I know he is because that’s just how he rolls. And what did I think I was going to do? Watch and be sad?
Wake Up, Ken.
When I was very young, a nice man on our street brought his wife a cup of tea in bed one morning, just before he set out for work. The way I heard it, he left the cup on the bedside table, drew the curtains, and, looking out, gently affirmed to his wife what a lovely morning it was. Then he died. He dropped down right there and died.
We all know a story like this. A person who just dies. No warning, no nothing. That’s it. Gone.
I could very easily be that person.
Who am I to know for sure that I will be here to witness whatever happens to anyone in coming years?
Who am I to know that?
I could go out the front door this morning and get hit by a bus. I could be attacked and murdered. Much more likely, I could draw the curtains, look out on the misty dawn, and fall down dead where I stand. It’s not even far-fetched. It could easily, easily happen.
Whenever I picture death coming like that big bus, I tend to see it gliding past me and I get ready to feel sad for whatever person it pulls up for.
That’s not right and it’s not true.
I need to start to learn the lesson in the bad news I’ve just received. That ‘obvious roundabout’ truth is that the next bus along could very well stop for me.
My friend is going to die but so am I. Nobody knows that I won’t die sooner than him. Nobody knows that. In my ‘Roundabout’ way, I have finally come to the most obvious of truths. The lesson for me that lies in this sad news.
My friend will face up to his future with fortitude, great good-humour and love. He will treasure each day, knowing that there are a finite number of days to come and that each one is a precious thing.
And I need to do the same.