As part of life’s journey, there are many speed bumps that we have all encountered. Almost all of them center around the phrase “♂, ♀, ✳, †, ∞”(man, woman, birth, death, infinity.) Some of you may be old enough to remember Ben Casey, MD. Others probably not. It doesn’t really matter. For those that do, it was the opening line to the show. It was delivered by a (at the time) famous actor Sam Jaffe.
The show ran from 1961-1966. When Jaffe first delivered those lines, he was 69 years old (ancient for 1961 but looking younger every day). But he was now famous (again) and working productively at his craft. In getting to 69, he lost his wife to cancer and he was blacklisted for being a suspected communist, forcing him out of the limelight. But he apparently didn’t quit; he kept pushing the rock up the hill and he kept being productive. For his efforts at keeping his sense of humor about what life had dealt him, he met and married fellow actress Betty Ackerman and got to play opposite her in Ben Casey. So, despite all his “stuff,” even though he was supposed to be too old and over-the-hill, he was back on top and got the thrill of working with his wife every day. Everyone knows what fun that can be, right? (The power just went out in the building; I don’t think Mary thought that was funny.)
Why am I telling you all of this?
He, like a lot of people, dealt with a lot of “stuff” in his life and he didn’t quit. One of my clients told me a similar tale of his wife going up to take a nap when she was 45 years old and never came down. She died in her sleep. He was left with three young girls under 16. He started a routine of getting up every morning at 3 a.m. to make lunches, run laundry and then drive the girls to swim practice 8 times a week.
I’ve written about the 62 days of Hell that my wife fought sarcoma cancer. Those 62 days were the hardest of my life, and I’m still here. Mary fought it with every breath she had. The “stuff” I have gone through in the six months since she died has been annoying and sometimes extremely painful. But by stopping feeling sorry for myself long enough to look around, it did let me know that as bad as I thought my “stuff” was, somebody always has “stuff” that looks worse than mine from the outside looking in.
I have had refrigerators blow, vacuum cleaners blow, attic fans try to catch the house on fire, bath tub washers dry rot to let water drain into the family room, and on and on and on. It seems like irrational unfair “stuff” when it happens, but I always have someone come to my rescue with the message “Dad, let’s just get a grip; the vacuum cleaner has nothing to do with Mom dying….”
So why am I telling you this?
Early on several people picked up on the fact that when I was at the keyboard talking to them about the 62 days, , it is one of the few moments of my day that the world is back in order. When I am here and you are all there, there is a small amount of serenity and peace. We are all “sharing a moment.” And sharing a moment is what gets me through to the next day.
So I’ve decided that’s what we are going to keep doing — share a moment.
Estate planners write about how you can save this, how you can avoid that, how you can protect this over here. It’s not very pleasant to think about, it’s even worse to have to walk through. But I am doing it — because I have to. I have grown children that rely on my being here. I have clients that rely on my being here. So we are here, and we are going to stay here.
There is stuff I am learning about that I never wanted to know. Life is still hard. It is still chaotic. And it is still challenging. But I don’t think that makes me any different than anyone else.
I have decided we ought to talk about it because it may help you and I know it will probably help me. We’ll take these things one at a time because life is in a constant state of change. But as we talk about these things, I have figured out a small way to have a little fun. I’ll get into the fun part soon enough, but for now, I have to figure out why the vacuum cleaner isn’t working. (I know child, “the vacuum cleaner has nothing to do with …..)
Just thank you all for being there…..