you can keep your perspective

Our last walk together was at Horseshoe Lake at “Jake’s Trail”

“Man, that really puts things in perspective.”  “Things like this really make you think about your life.”  Contemplative self-checks, like, are commonplace in the wake of tragedy.  I’ve been guilty.  Two weeks before Jacob’s 8th birthday, my friends Malcolm and “Teeny” lost Malcom’s son to cancer.  I attended the calling hours and funeral.  Leaving in tears, I thought those same sentiments.  Malcolm Jr.’s death put things into “perspective” for me.  I went home that day, and “loved on” my family.  That lasted the night.  Within a few days, I feel back into the monotony of life.  My gratitude slipped into oblivion as swiftly as it arrived.  Yesterday, I read the blog, from Jackie Acho,  It had an eerie Shirley Jackson, The Lottery, vibe. 

I’ve taken big trips.  I’ve seen many places.  I took a “big trip” to the Middle East this summer.  That pales in comparison to the trip that Jackie is preparing.  My trip was empirically tangible.  I knew the cities and attractions.  I had a solid itinerary down to within a couple of hours.  There was little flexibility, and we stayed the course.  Jackie writes, I’m looking for my dad, who passed in August, my beloved grandmother, my aunt, my cousin, his dad…I’m looking for guidance because THEY are the people who actually know what this transition is like. They’ve done it. They are our mentors. My dreams have always been wild, so following them sometimes feels like hanging onto a mechanical bull.”  She’s relying on her faith to guide the next steps.  Jackie, by nature, is a planner.  She is a scientist who tests and proofs theory.  To say this is by nature is paradoxical, but that’s her. 

We are all going to die.  It’s inevitable.  Some deaths are crueler than others.  I often look at Jacob’s last days.  His hospice experience happened so quickly.  Those who love him felt slighted.  This concept of time really put things into “perspective.”  I felt slighted.  I wanted weeks and months more with Jacob.  There are two certainties from Jacob’s last days:  Jacob was done.  He fought valiantly and was as ready as he could be.  The other certainty was an infinite amount of time with him, would not be enough.  Jackie explains in detail that while not in great pain, she us living this last chapter in complete contradiction to the previous chapters. 

Cancer is devious.  Days, weeks, months, and almost two years in and out of hospitals, gave me “perspective” to think about life and death.  If I knew that tomorrow was my last day, what would I do?  Would I sit in bed?  Would I binge watch the latest Netflix show?  Would I climb a mountain with my loved ones and dine at its apex and take in a sunset?  This isn’t real life.  People don’t enter hospice by happenstance.  As we often say in the 12 steps, “No one comes in here on a winning streak.” The utopia of living those “last days” doing bucket list shit is a fallacy.  If you want to see stories of people who die doing the things they want to do, look at mountain climbers and free solo rock climbers.  The difference is they don’t plan for “that day” to be their last. 

Jacob was nearly incapable of keeping his eyes open for photos. We always laughed

Why do so many of us need tragedy to find perspective?  This question is rhetorical.  I don’t know.  I’ve been sedentary for so long.  Do I maximize my time here, while relatively healthy?  I live in awe of friends who maximize that time.  I live for my family and friends.  Human and natural interactions are paramount.  I call my nieces and nephews as much as possible.  I am deeply connected to Ana and her friends.  Jacob’s friends mean more to me now than ever, as they meant so much to me.  My father-in-law, whom I consider one of my closest friends, said to me a long time ago, “We all have a purpose.  Mine is to provide.  You are a bum (he likes to call me that, lovingly) but you connect people more than anyone I know.  I relish in that role. 

I am making small changes to “live each day” to its maximum.  I fall short but I am conscience.  Tumult has always followed me.  This is not by coincidence.  It’s a byproduct of mistakes compounded.  I recognize this and have myself to blame.  I am not ashamed.  I am pragmatic in my understanding.  I am reflective these days.  I even look at my time with Jackie.  Jackie and I have been in the same spot, physically, less than five times.  The last time, we took a walk and sat on Jacob’s bench.  We talked.  We laughed.  I cried when I left.  We last spoke September 22nd at 3:30PM.  She called me as she hit send on an email to me, a week prior to her writing her blog, “I’m Done.” 

I remember that day.  I didn’t need “perspective” to know.

One day, we will reunite.  I anticipate a day in the park with Jacob, Jackie, and Max! 

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