SEVENTY-EIGHT | Birthday Blog

December 23, 2018

Like the record – remember the record? the 78? – post Edison/pre 45? - some might whisper, behind my back, of course, that I am an antique, out of date, scratchy, fragile. They don’t like the way I sound any more. Personally, as those who know me may attest, this is not my preferred way of looking at things, not on most days, anyway, certainly not on my birthday, which day is today. Let’s think in mercantile terms. I’d like to believe I’m a “collectible”, something with some value, something to be kept around, like an old globe of the world or a civil war musket or a cherrywood dictionary stand, or even some less significant chotchky, like an old railroad spike or a bird’s nest, maybe even displayed in a special place? Only joking on that last one. When I think of being displayed in a special place I think of those Aztec mummies sitting straight up in caves on cliffs. But, not the others. My friend, Brooke, recently sent me something with the sentiment , “We have two lives, and the second begins when you realize you have only one.” I certainly cannot improve on that, but something just came across my computer screen, a thing random and astonishing, and it took me a bit further.

More than forty years ago I posted an index card on the bulletin board above my desk, a quote from Isaak Dineson, author of “Out of Africa”: “I will not let thee go life except thou bless me.” Now, decades later, social media brought a young man named Zach Sobiech into my world when I needed him, sixty years apart, strangers, never passed a word, yet sharing the most profound experience of all. Zach was an eighteen year old literally dying from a dreadful cancer, except the video was not about his death but how he lived the life he had left. He did not know how long that would be only that it would be, and sooner than he wished. This kid, this Zach – smile by Fra Angelico - was wise beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed, and he refused to allow his end to taint what life he had left. He lived. Lived. Lived! With all his grace and heart, exuberance and good cheer, he lived. With fortitude and energy, he lived. There was no denial, and no self-indulgence. The toughness I admire has little to do with aggression, with pummeling another human being, and everything to do with fortitude, the ability to do what’s got to be done at the time it needs to be done. And, so, I thought, “You. Foreman. Take a lesson. All right, then, fool, take another lesson. Your days are limited. You know that. Zach knew that. He had no true idea how many, but neither do you.” Just a fact, Bub, just a fact. Kvetch no more. Git crackin’.

“I will not let thee go life except thou bless me” -

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