The following story is real. It’s not a network TV movie of the week. It’s not a Nicolas Sparks novel. It’s not a song. It is real and crushing and can hold some very critical lessons if you are willing to read it.
It started two months ago. I got an email from a business acquaintance.
“I guess you heard about him. I hope it call works out okay. Kind of a bummer.”
I wrote back, “I don’t know what you mean.”
He wrote back within a few minutes: “Call me.”
When he answered, he didn’t sound like himself. He sounded tentative and tight. His voice had less power than normal, a little hollow.
“Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he has a lung cancer.”
It’s one of those moments when you are struck silent for a few seconds, so caught off guard that your mind does a back flip and short circuits.
“The really bad kind. Malignant. He is dying”
I hung up consumed in thought. My very good friend and someone I had worked with closely the last three years was lying in a hospital after surgery that brought no hope at all. He had a wife and two kids, owned a business, and was a member of a church. The nicest guy I have ever known was dying.
I steeled myself for the visit to ICU, preparing for the tubes, beeps, and the odds smells, the distinct feeling you have that everyone is being cheerful, but it is hiding their despair. I hate hospitals but this wasn’t about me. It was about my friend and his family.
I approached his room and tentatively walked in the door, not wanted to intrude if he was asleep or involved with some medical procedure.
“Well! It’s a great day when Shawn Doyle walks into your room to visit!” He laughed the way he always laughed, full of energy and spirit. It was not some false bravado or act; he was truly happy.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Never better!” he said. “I have also made a decision; I am going to beat this.”
He said it with conviction, and I knew he believed every word. We spent about an hour together and we talked about work, life, and sports, and how funny life was. He looked great and sounded great.
When I decided to leave, he said he really appreciated me coming and that it meant so much. He wondered if I could hug him goodbye.
I gladly gave him a hug, making sure not to cry as I was leaving. I didn’t want to upset him or upset his sense of optimism. It was the last time I would see him, and I somehow knew it and I think he did, too.
On the drive home, I thought about the times we had spent together. I thought about how amazing his attitude was. What I mainly thought about was what really matters in life.
We so often get caught up in work, schedules, errands, and the complexity of just trying to get everything done. Our lives are a blur of meetings and projects and the kid’s homework and travel for business and all the stuff at work and at home. Here is the sad part: We often forget what matters.
- We forget to take good care of the people who we love, while we are still here, and they are still here.
- We forget to just spend time with our kids and that really is all they want.
- We forget to keep in contact with our friends and call them when we should, while we can, and they can.
- We forget to give a smile to a stranger and give them a kind word.
- We forget to stop and enjoy the smaller things in life because they matter, like sunshine on a crisp fall day.
- We forget to show gratitude for what we have.
- We forget what really matters in life.
I as move forward in my life remembering him, I hope and pray that I won’t forget what matters, but I am sure some days I will.