Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Last Word

It is funny the paths that cross in this life. And, it is amazing the lessons that are learned at these intersections. Never underestimate the potential for every minute of every day.

Yesterday BK and I attended the memorial service for a friend who recently lost his battle with prostate cancer. It was an awesome service - probably because he was an amazing human being.

We met Ike at the cancer center while he was receiving chemo for his cancer and I was receiving IV iron to treat anemia cause by lupus. How did we become friends? He was a democrat and here in Texas, we democrats have to stick together! We began by sharing jokes and then more serious conversations about politics and religion ensued. Ike was a Presbyterian minister who served our local college campuses. I knew he was a pistol when he ordered in Chinese food to the chemo room. I wondered how that would go over with those who were dealing with nausea! Simply stated, Ike was a character. He is one of those people that words can not adequately describe - you just have to meet him. Sadly, the opportunity for that has passed.

I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have had the chance to know him. Once he decided to stop treatment and I was going to the cancer center less frequently, our meetings relocated to Barnes and Noble. Everybody there knew and loved him. We shared many hours of engaging conversation and many cups of coffee. We certainly spent a great deal of time discussing the woes of society. I think much of this time was prayer at its best. And, while the majority of our recent conversation focused on dying, I learned from Ike what it really means to live and love life to its fullest.

He was always one to have the last word. Not in a triumphant sort of way but in a way where you were left thinking - thinking about what you could and should do. Looking back, this is the best kind of learning. I often tell my own students that if you leave my class thinking you know all the answers then I have failed as a teacher. It is questions that further learning. This method seems also to be one that Ike believed in.

Ike had the last word at his service as well. When I opened the service leaflet, there were no surprises. Ike had orchestrated every word that was said - down to telling the person who did the eulogy what topics he wanted covered. He loved music. In fact, he loved to rub in the fact that he had three Ipods. So, it was no surprise that he chose every note that was sung - including the Beatles "Let It Be". Every time I hear this tune from now on I will think of Ike. He chose or wrote all the prayers that were said. As the service concluded, his daughter's cell phone rang. Ike's wife Barbara jokingly said that it was Ike calling to check in. I would not be surprised . . .

I learned about life from Ike and I learned about death. He embraced both with joy and grace. I pray that I can do the same.

Rest in peace and rise in glory my dear brother.