Just the other day I was invited to participate in a presentation by Neuroworx. They are a physical therapy facility that among other things provides care for the less fortunate. One of their board members felt our commitment to charities might align with what they are doing as an organization. Prior to meeting I was involved in an accident that required that I walk gingerly on my ankle. As many do (I hope), we feel a little sorry for ourselves when our bodies aren’t operating at full potential. I admit I walked into the facility a little down knowing that I would have to sit often and/or walk with difficulty.
As I waited in the lobby, I could easily see every person in therapy had much greater ailments than mine. Out walked Dr. Dale Hull. As he approached, it was clear he didn’t enjoy full command of his movements. That didn’t matter; he carried himself with a distinct positive spirit and outlook. Behind him was Jan Black, his therapist and co-founder of the institute. What I quickly learned is that Jan treated Dale from the time he had a spinal cord injury which left him a quadriplegic until today where he is almost fully functioning. I was nearly breathless, astounded and amazed!
I don’t need to tell you how quickly my self-pity left or that I no longer felt any sorrow for the fact I was healing from an injury. I realized my pain was short term and the fix would be nothing more than waiting for my body to heal itself. Every person I was surrounded by had dealt with pain so severe that many considered suicide or at various times gave up on hope for a brighter day. (The story of Neuroworx will have to wait for another post. Understand in advance, it is a miracle!)
Today, as this experience was floating around my mind, a friend, Pete Peterman walked into my office. For those who don’t know, Pete has a terminal illness where Doctors have given him two years or less to live. No one would know by his outward expressions. As soon as Pete walked through the doorway I could feel of his giving spirit. After a few minutes catching up with small talk, Pete commented, “Life is too short.”
How many of you have heard this or offered it yourself as a point of conversation? I have, and I will tell you historically it has gone in one ear and out the other without much emotion. Not this time! As did Dale walking up to learn he once was paralyzed, Pete making this point hit me hard! Metaphors have meaning and add to understanding, however when they are spoken by one who truly is living the message, it occupies a different spot in your heart.
Stunned, I sat back wanting to absorb his wisdom. Pete, holy cow Mate, I don’t know what to say. That was okay, nothing was needed. The words of Tim McGraw’s hit song “Live like you were dying” immediately began playing in my mind. I thought of things that may be on bucket lists such as skydiving, rocky mountain climbing, and riding Fu Man Chew, yet these seemed empty sitting there with a man living the title.
Pete, what is it like? Out came a long drawn out — w e l l — followed by a pleasant pause and then words of wisdom we all should take to heart. Pete stretched his arms as far apart as he could, “You are filled with gratitude that the doctor said ‘up to two years’ and not something much shorter.” Slowly moving his hands gradually closer to just inches apart. Then shaking his finger toward me, “You see, time gives me the opportunity to complete unfinished business. Besides, with where technology is going today, who knows; someone may come up with a cure while I am still living!” Finally, as he was slowing in speech and giving the appearance of looking up he said, “Then from in a much deeper part of your soul, you’re filled with intense feelings of family, faith, and a desire to go fishing!”
I loved his response and the joy I could see that filled his heart as he expressed this to me. You see, he had just come from spending time with his daughter doing nothing but hanging out. Nothing else mattered. I understood with intensity, that time, gave Pete an opportunity to be with family, deepen his faith, and provide hope.
Granted, Tim’s song goes on to say he became a better husband, friend and read the “Good Book,” but are those the things we really concentrate on if we aren’t in Pete’s position or with someone who is? Christian Gellert once said, “Live as you will wish to have lived when you are dying.” Pete, thank you for alerting my heart such that it is aligned with what is important: family, friends, faith and that little thing that gives us peace. While many may look at your circumstance as unfortunate, there are some like you who know how very fortunate you really are! God bless you my friend…