Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Fourth

We had quite a feast and good time at the marina picnic yesterday.  It felt good to chill out, talk to friends, watch fireworks and sleep on the boat at the end of the evening.  

The marina was packed with people who come down to watch the fireworks from probably the best location in the city.  In years past, the fireworks were shot off the deck of the aircraft carrier Yorktown.  This year, they were shot from a barge in the Harbor near the Yorktown and the marina.  So we really had a great view since our boat is docked next to the Yorktown breakwater.  

I do feel like a kid again watching those fireworks.  The kaleidoscope of lights and the sound of the rockets make for a happy time.  We left our dog at home since it was really hot in the afternoon, and we thought that all the people and fireworks might further add to her discomfort.  

As I watched the events and participated in the liveliness of the evening, I couldn't help but think about my friend, M., who is dying in a hospital in Boston.  He and I would room together at just about every national meeting we attended.  He was diagnosed with cancer around 12 years ago and managed to be in partial remission until last year.  A tumor was removed from his brain then.  Last week, he, his wife and children were at the family cabin in Maine when he began to bleed internally.  He was rushed to the hospital but remains in a coma.  I called him and left a message on his cell phone, telling him that I was thinking of him and thinking of the good times that we had over the years.  I don't know if he will hear what I said.  What do you say to someone who is dying?  I like what Randy Pausch, a terminally ill professor at Carnegie Mellon, said in a lecture: 

What is the most appropriate thing to say to a friend who was about to die. He answered: ”tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Whenever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone."  (The Last Lecture)

A couple of years ago, M. told me that his great hope was to see his children grow up.  I talked with a mutual friend who said that he knew the cancer was back and that the outcome wasn't going to be good.  So over the past month or so, M. had been preparing his children for his death.  I used to kid him about working so hard into the night when he was at meetings.  He would stay up reviewing manuscripts and tended to take on a lot of extra work.  But he lived for his family and his work.  He was content with who he was and was engaged in every aspect of those things that mattered in life.  I know that he has prepared them by giving unconditional love. 

I hope that he will go out peacefully, knowing that there are many who will miss him and remember him as a kind and gentle human being. 


  1. Great photo of the fireworks! Glad you were able to have a relaxing day with friends and your wife.

    Those are kind words to anyone that is dying. Thank you for sharing. You are a good friend to M. and I'm sure he knows that.

  2. Hi Syd, I've copied a very meaningful quote you referred to when someone you love is dying, or who has died: "in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him."

    I heard this remark at a funeral made in general about a young person's death within the family. His mother said, "Why does he take so much with him?" This is a very touching as well as true (in my case) - brought me to tears.

    Today's blog reminded me of my own existence, as well as the days becoming 'numbered.' I know how this must seem; however, the program of Al-Anon has assured me of accepting each day that I live to be able to maintain my sanity. After all, yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, so I live in my HP's gift - the (a) present!

    And, yes, I've known many people who have died, and they certainly do take a part of me with them; the flip side is - they also leave a part of themselves with me to keep good memories alive.

    Whew; I guess I needed to say this - - -

    Thanks for the mind-provoking blog!

    Anonymous #1

  3. And part of you WILL go with him. The part of Syd whom only he knew. This is one of the hardest parts of losing a friend.

  4. Thanks for this post Syd. My sister died at the age of 48 from a rare brain disease. One day she was fine and the next she was in a coma, and the day after that she was in a vegetative state. I never got to say good bye to her. I wish that I could have told her in person those words from Randy Pausch. They are very soul soothing to me today. It's been 3 years. I still miss seeing her and talking to her. It's nice knowing that a part of me is with her and vice versa.

  5. sorry about your friend M. we had a good day here at golch central. we statyed on and watched the fireworks on TV. Big time Hug my friend.

  6. Wonderful information about the dying process.

    It looks like your July 4 was really cool.

  7. I would love to have M's life as my eulogy--she lived for her family and her work. Nothing to be ashamed of in that.

    I pray he goes peacefully, and with his children at his side.

  8. dude i am jealous of the fireworks...way too dry here in va...did see a few over the horizon...sorry about your friend power back this AM so happy day for me...

  9. So sorry about your friend. Thank you for the quote. So true

  10. I love what you wrote about your friend in Boston. My husband has a friend who is dying of cancer who has three children under 5. Last fall, she lost her infant daughter to SIDS. But she is blogging with grace, and I follow her posts and learn so much from her. Actually, she doesn't know me and I try to write what I hope are comforting comments on her blog without her knowing that my husband is a friend. I guess I want her to feel she matters out here, that she is heard even by people who are not personally involved in her life. It really is hard to know what to say in these situations. But I suspect that just caring goes a long way in a terrible situation.

    Glad you had a great 4th :)

  11. Thank you for that thoughtful quote. I never know what to say in sad situations so I am always glad to find some help like this. I am sorry about your friend and hope he gets the peaceful end you wished for him.

  12. Good to hear you enjoyed your much needed day off Syd..
    Sorry for your friend and his family.

  13. Why not keep them alive? As long as someone remembers their name they do not die. The body is gone but then we are more than just this slab of meat so I will die when I die but them i have already outlived as I remember them I carry them to the future with me.


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