Thursday, February 27, 2014

The luckiest man

I read a really humbling article the other day. It was a story about a Florida high school English teacher who was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer awhile back. After staying in the classroom for as long as he absolutely could, he  decided to spend the time he had left visiting with former students to have a chance to see, as he put it, "how my kids were faring and to witness how, if at all, I had helped shape their young lives."
He's written a book about his experiences that was published in January. Near the end of an opinion piece that he recently wrote for CNN, he quoted that famous line from baseball great Lou Gehrig's farewell speech after he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the disease that often bears his name.
"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
So, what's so lucky about an unstoppable disease that leaves you struggling to speak, swallow or breath before it finally kills you?
And what's so lucky about incurable brain cancer?  Or any kind of cancer at all?
A few months ago, my answer would have been pretty simple.
But you can learn a lot in a few months.
Because here's the thing.
While the pain, uncertainty, fear, discomfort, embarrassment, expense and plain old inconvenience of a whopping good case of cancer or any other serious disease are no trip to Disneyland, the essential goodness of most people that suddenly comes bursting through in such situations absolutely balances things out.
Because it is astounding to be surrounded by the love and support of a family. Wonderful to be lifted up by the prayers and good wishes of dear friends. And absolutely astonishing to experience the amazing kindness of strangers.
In other words, lucky.
Very lucky, indeed.


  1. John, we're lucky to know you and Megan and your boys - big and small. Great words today. We are all pullin' for you.

  2. Nice column, John. To paraphrase Red Green, 'we're all pulling for you'.

  3. Great column Uncle J. We are all praying for you, and Megan, and the boys. Take care and hopefully we will see you soon.