Monday, December 23, 2013

Mat's Dying Lesson to Me - Gratitude

In health, my twin sister’s husband, Mat, was 6’5” and 210 lbs. In 2006 he was diagnosed as having pancreatic cancer. He lived five more very courageous years of life, through an organ transplant, and numerous rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. By mid 2010 Mat was 6’5” but weighed 125 lbs. It hurt for him to walk because his bones and joints were covered with tumors that would grind together when he moved. To walk he relied heavily on a cane. In spite of this, he would go along with Kimberly and his boys to the beach where it would literally take him a painful 30 minutes to walk the 200 yards from their handicap parking space to the shore where he would sit in a chair and watch his boys. And he would go to his son’s baseball games where it would be the top of the third inning by the time he made it to the third-base line.

I never heard him complain. I spent a week with him at his home in Boston several months before he died. Over lunch at his favorite Mexican restaurant I finally asked him, “How do you do it, Mat? How have you lived so well through all of this hell?”

Mat said a few different things in reply. First, he said, “I have lived a very blessed life. I am married to my dream woman and I have two awesome boys. And I have had a great career.”

“I also have a pretty good sense of my place in the bigger picture.” He went on to relate an experience. “On one business trip to China in Hangzhou, I went for a walk and I took a wrong turn and ended up in a very poor part of the city. Anyway, as I was walking along I walked past an alley. In that dimly lit alley I saw a woman, probably about 30, squatting over a little gas burner boiling water. In that boiling water was the head of a cat she was going to eat for dinner. That has stayed with me.”

“So, I’ve lived a blessed life and I’ve never eaten the head of a cat for dinner. Besides, in the span of mankind, 40 years old is a very long life. And hey, I know that I will be together with Kimberly and my boys again.”

Mat lived another eight months. Funny thing is, during his sickness and until the very moment of his death he gave peace and happiness and courage, perhaps the greatest legacy he could give to his wife, his boys, and all who knew him.