Yesterday I wrote about time distortion. I had a struggle with confusion about the time. The only inconvenience was to myself. It caused no damage. It caused no problems, other than the inconvenience previously mentioned. Today, I write about the absence of the distortion of time, for time will eventually stop.
When I wrote, I wrote about the many things I was thankful for. I laughed at myself for causing my own troubles. I also made mention of Rick, suffering in an intensive care unit in a major research hospital. I mentioned that I was thankful for what I had left in the midst of what so many others were facing. Rick was facing a powerful lot more than most of us; He was facing a powerful lot more than me, since I was only facing my own foolishness. You can decide for yourselves who had the greater burden.
Rick was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma about the same time I was diagnosed with CLL. He has been my friend since junior high school; not only was Rick my friend, but his entire extended family were friends, from his dad, Bill, Sr., his mother Sally, his brother Bil, Jr., his Uncle Jim, his wife Nanette, his sons Little Rick and Jason, his sisters, his cousins.
Rick went through chemo about the same time I did. His chemo was completely successful in fending off the Hodgkins Lymphoma. In his case, though, the cure was perhaps worse than the disease. Of course, without the treatment, his Hodgkins Lymnphoma would have claimed him, but with the treatment came a nearly unbearable neuropathy in his feet and hands, causing him much pain and the inability to do the finely precisioned mechanical work he did on vintage Volkswagens, of which he was one of the world’s foremost experts. People from all over hauled-in or shipped him their old priceless Kharmann Ghia’s, and their convertible antique VWs and VW buses for complete off-the-frame restorations. He did the work from engine rebuilding and blueprinting, to frames and running gear restoration, to complete interiors, to water-sanded paint jobs that shone like the newly risen sun on a frosty morning. His neuropathy interfered with his ability to do this work. It was very troublesome to him to be unable to do the work he had devoted a whole lifetime to, the work that was a source of great satisfaction and pride to him, since he took pride in it and the results of it. Many others admired it, too.
As troublesome as the neuropathy was, it was not nearly as bad as the lung damage some of the ancillary chemo medications caused him. Ultimately, he lost nearly 85% of his lung capacity, was forced to be on oxygen full time, and could only endure the slightest exertion without exhaustion. He was on a waiting list for a lung transplant at UAB in Birmingham.
Rick always made me laugh. He had a remarkable gift of humor, much like his late father and his Uncle Jim. If you got them all together in one bunch, you’d laugh until your head hurt. Just a few weeks ago, I heard Rick holler at me as I came out of the post office. I went across the street to his shop, and there he was sitting on his stool, hooked up to his oxygen, unable to do much more than sit there, feeling pretty low. As soon as we began to talk, he made a wise crack or two. I could not help but offer a couple in return. Before you knew it, we were laughing as hard as we could. Laughter came much easier for me; it exhausted him. Exhausted though he was, he said through his laughter, “I sure did need a good laugh today, ol’ buddy.”
It is that laugh I will remember.
Today, at 3:00PM CDT, October 2, 2016, Rick passed on to the ages. He will never have a moment of confusion about time from now on. For Rick, time has stopped, and he has moved to the plane wherein he can see time as a continuous filament weaving through the fabric of space, to the place where the finite-ness of time can be viewed through the experience of eternity, which, from that vantage point must seem mighty small and fragile, and ultimately, insignificant; yet, it was all we know from here. He is not here to be limited by that any more. He is free.
He leaves behind him a loving wife, two handsome and remarkable sons, many family members, and hundreds of friends who will miss his smile and his laughter for a time, until we also join him in that place where time shall be no more, and the morning breaks eternal, bright, and fair…
And one more time a wave of survivor’s guilt comes crashing over me, and I wonder, “Why not me?”
I have no answer for that, though I am told that it is a common feeling that cancer survivors have. I am not surviving cancer-free, I am surviving with cancer. Eventually, my time will come and others will wonder why me and not them.
If I could tell them, I’d say, “There is no answer. Enjoy your time while you have your time. There is no guarantee, nor is there an expiration date.” I wonder if that is the same thing the others who have moved on would tell me now.
Surely it is. Surely it must be. Or perhaps they’d say, “Time doesn’t mean much up here. By the time you get here you will have always been here, along with everyone else, even those who aren’t here yet.” It is incomprehensible to our finite minds, but it is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
We will all have that time when time will be no more, and the morning breaks eternal, bright, and fair…which I think are some of the most inspired song lyrics I ever heard. When the roll is called up yonder, this time Rick will answer, and no doubt, he will make at least a dozen eternalees guffaw with laughter before the assembly is over.
Fair winds and following seas, friend. You always put a smile on my face, even in the midst of your pain. I am thankful for our time together.
May the Lord’s peace, that peace which passes all understanding, be upon all those who loved you and mourn your passing.
©2016 Mississippi Chris Sharp