Dealing with the Reaper
By Coming Alive and Living

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a couple idiosyncrasies. Okay, perhaps more than a couple. I have sweatshirts that go back several decades. I keep or perhaps hoard stuff from when I was a child, which goes back six or seven decades. For some reason, I don’t want to part with them even though things like sweatshirts have outlived their usefulness years ago. Additionally, I am very eclectic with those things. I’ll mix and match furniture, souvenirs, or anything. For some reason, I wish to return or at least remember times past.

However, my eclecticism is with things and also with people. I am able to tie together issues which have little or no relationship with friends and myself. For example, I was talking recently with an old colleague of mine which goes back over four decades. She told me that she had a bad car accident sometime in the mid-90s. As I recall, she was driving on ice, which resulted in a near-fatal accident for her.

What was interesting was that while she and her passengers waited for help, some guy came up to the driver’s door and put his hand on my friend’s shoulder to comfort her. A week or so later, she mentioned the nice guy’s gesture while she and her passengers waited for the police and ambulance to arrive. Her passenger said that there wasn’t any guy that came up to the car.

As I reflected on my friend’s near death experience, my mind morphed into my two dances with death…especially, the traumatic brain injury. The neurosurgeon said to my family that I had a 50-50 chance of making it through the surgery. I don’t recall falling off the ladder or the four weeks in ICU. It was the reverse of my friend’s situation. My brain injury caused total memory loss for weeks.

Additionally, I was told that I tried to escape my imprisonment in the ICU of the hospital. The doctor had removed a part of my skull to allow my brain to swell. In fact, I was in ICU and a rehab hospital for seven weeks without part of my skull. I only recall the last ten days of those nearly two months. With bleeding and swelling of my brain, my mental faculties weren’t operating normally. Nonetheless, I was aware that something had happened to me, and I needed to escape from my confinement. So, I pulled out all the IVs and the drainage tube from the top of my head.

Both my dances took place in 2008, but I didn’t realize how those two dances changed my life until several years later. I had dinner with a guy in Chicago who I had never met before. At the end of the dinner, he asked me whether I had seen or read Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. I hadn’t, but he sent me the link to the video. Talk about seeing the light…I was dazzled by the light after watching that video. It was a transformative moment in my life.

The Grim Reaper

I have written a huge number of essays about that revelation. One thing that Pausch taught me and millions of others is to express your appreciation to those that have helped or have loved you. Don’t put it off to someday; you might not be alive someday. Do it now.

Once I realized, in my gut, that I was immortal, I went on my grand tour…back home to where I grew up. Those that were still alive, I thanked. Brooks Oakford and Louie Palmer were the most important. Fortunately, Brooks was still alive, but Louie had died. I’ll never forget what they did for me. The list goes on and on.

Then my eclectic mind morphed back to my former colleague. She was on her grand tour of thanking people. As we talked, I mused at how she expressed the urgency and importance of her tour of thanking people. It was like an echo of how I expressed it to my friends and family.

Interestingly, I don’t fear death. I don’t want to die. I have things to do before the grim reaper knocks on my door again…for the last time. I have to raise a half million dollars for laptops for two schools in Taunggyi, Myanmar in less than nine months. Then I will expand the drive to the other schools in Taunggyi. It all has to do with leaving your mark or legacy. I want to see again my three granddaughters and their classmates.

Then there is Ginger. I got Ginger two years ago at Christmas as an adorable little puppy. She is now an 80 pound hyperactive Irish Setter. Again, I wanted to relive the time four decades ago when my first Ginger cared for my three children as they grew up. After a dozen years with my first Ginger, one day, it was apparent that she wasn’t going to make it. She wasn’t in pain. So, I just laid down next to her and gently rubbed her stomach until she died an hour or so later. That was one of the saddest days of my long life.

So, here I sit writing about my first Ginger. At my feet sits my second Ginger. It is eerie. As I write this, I’m crying about a dog that died four decades ago. How many times do you think that I rub my second Ginger’s stomach gently and think about her predecessor?

So, as you look back upon your life, how are you going to deal with the grim reaper? I would suggest coming alive and living ever moment that you have. Someday will be too late to come alive and live.