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.