Wednesday, May 13, 2009


It's a common story, but one that people are always happy to hear.

A close friend or relative is diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis is grim, but the patient fights the cancer with everything that modern science, medical technology, a strong support network and a vast reservoir of faith can muster.

In the end, the cancer goes into remission or is removed altogether.

It's an inspirational story. The stuff that plays and movies are made of.

But it's not what happened with my next door neighbor, George.

When I first mentioned George's cancer 8 weeks ago, he was optimistic. Not optimistic that he would live forever, but optimistic that he would fight the disease and take each day as it came.

I didn't know at the time that would be the last time I talked to him. I saw his wife a couple of weeks later. She gave me the bad news that the chemotherapy had not gone well and that the doctors had stopped it. George was now on hospice care. His wife said he had maybe a couple of weeks left.

In the days that followed, George was surrounded by family at all hours. Relatives were at his house daily, making sure he wasn't alone, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.

Then one day in late April, I saw long lines of cars parking along our street, throughout our neighborhood. Hundreds of them. A lifetime's worth of friends who came to pay their final respects to a good man. Maybe one of the best men, but who am I to say.

Like I said, no heroic, happy ending here. Real life isn't a Lifetime movie of the week. Sometimes all of the faith and medical science doesn't lead to a miracle recovery. Sometimes the best people die while undeserving scoundrels make off with billions in ill-gotten TARP money.

There's no inspirational lesson, unless it's the message that some day we are all going to die. And when that day comes, the best you can hope for is that you won't be alone -- that you will have made enough of a positive impression on people that they will remember you for being a good man.

Even if they were just your next door neighbor for a couple of short years.

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  1. Sorry to hear about your neighbor. I was in a similar situation a few years ago and I often think much of what you said in your post. If I can die having had half the impact my neighbor had during his time I will have spent my time in a worthwhile manner.

    Definitely makes me think twice before spending my free time lazed out in front of the television.

  2. Sorry to hear about your neighbor. My dad is now on that same path, and family are now coming by for a visit, though everyone knows it will most likely be the last visit. My gift to my father is to die in the home where his best memories are, surrounded by the people who love him. Hospice makes that happen, and I cannot say enough good things about them. His ending won't be the one I wanted to write for him, but we are doing what we can to make it a happy one.

  3. Cancer may take his body but a good person lives on in memories. Sad for all who cared for him.


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