May 7, 2002, Memorial Hospital, New York
A friend of mine from college came to visit me in the hospital
yesterday. We had a nice chat, lively and energetic, talking
about our kids, my treatment plans, opportunities for Zen Guitar,
maybe going to visit him in Connecticut this summer. We parted
and said we'd talk soon. Then, in the moment before he turned
to go, he gave me The Look.
I might be wrong, but I thought I saw it in his eyes: This
is the last time I'll ever see Phil alive.
took me a moment to process, and by then he was already gone.
But I turned to my wife and a tear fell
down my cheek.
Is this the way people are going to look at me now? She nodded
her head and said, "You'd better get used to it."
People, let me tell you: A.D.Y., baby, A.D.Y. I ain't dead
yet. The next person that gives me that look, I'm going to
call out and say, Get that look off of your face! I don't need
to see it, and you don't need to feel it.
we're dealing with heavy stuff here, and I'm sympathetic
to the difficulties loved ones have in seeing my
body so gaunt. It's hard for them to know what to say. I know
how awkward I would feel if the situation were reversed. But
look past my body, look at my eyes: My mind is strong and my
spirit is strong. I'm still here--the part of me that's me.
I've set my mind and spirit on bringing my body along.
If total health consists of a healthy body, mind, and spirit,
I've got two out of the three--and in a way, I've got the most
important two. Because everyone's body atrophies as they get
older; it's an inevitable decline that everyone grapples with
at some point in their lives. I just happen to be grappling
with it at an earlier age than my peers.
at least I've got a healthy mind and spirit. Those two are
what really keep you alive, in the sense of
it means to be alive, to feel the joy of life, to pass on that
joy and appreciate every day as a precious gift. You'll never
find me complaining about the weather, no matter how "bad" it
gets. To a person with cancer, all weather is good weather.
So what if there's a rainstorm at the picnic grounds? It's
a great day to be alive.
just like anyone else, trying to delay the decay of my body
for as long as possible. What's sad
are those people unhealthy
in mind or spirit, who don't see the gift they have, who squander
it or can't find a reason to get up in the morning. Their struggle
is far harder than mine. Compared to them, I'm lucky. The longer
I live, the more I see how I'm one of the fortunate few who've
been blessed to know True Love--a love that transcends this
bodily realm, that's enveloping and eternal. I've said before,
there are people who could live a thousand lifetimes and never
know the comfort and peace of the love I've received. How can
I not live in constant gratitude for this blessing? Who am
I to measure an "early" death against such a timeless
Japan, they celebrated Children's Day two days ago, part
of that nation's "Golden Week" of
holidays. As part of the tradition, families hang colorful
carp flags called
koinobori outside their homes. When the wind blows, the carp
look like they're swimming. The carp symbolizes vigor because
it swims upstream, against the current to spawn. The flags
encourage children to carry the same vigorous spirit as they
grow up and meet the challenges of life.
That's the spirit I'm taking in my battle with cancer. I'm
still a child at heart: Naive in many ways, optimistic about
the future but not really paying attention to the future so
much as the game I'm playing right now. It's fun.
I'm like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in the climatic
scene, hunkered down in their bunker,
all shot up
and counting the precious few bullets they have left. "When
we get out of here, we're going to Bolivia," they say,
neither one willing to acknowledge the array of armaments lined
up against them. Then they charge out, guns blazin'.
Butch and Sundance. Fun. Cool. ''I'm never gonna stop the
rain by complaining--'cause I'll be
free, nothing's worrying
Put a smile on your face. A.D.Y., baby, A.D.Y.