This is likely my last blog post as I’m sure I’ll be dead soon. MAYBE


I grew up the youngest child in a family of fairly elder parents (Mom – 45 years at my birth, Dad – 50). During my childhood I passed through the disquieting front entry doors of funeral homes more often than might normally be the case for someone of my tender young age…uncles and aunts and then my Mom and Dad were taking turns stepping through the eternal revolving door of the Pearly Gates to the point where I began to enjoy the company of a beautiful cemetery.

My all-time favourite cemetery is a lush, pastoral country one called Huxley Cemetery in Hillsburgh, Ontario. This is where my maternal grandparents, William and Margaret, and many other relatives have been laid to rest over the past 100 years or so. The lush, green lawns; the big, graceful shade trees; the sweet blossom-perfumed air; the weather-worn headstones with their sometimes religious, sometimes personal inscriptions; and the trilling songbirds’ calls almost make one wish they could bring their life to an end sooner, just so they could spend more time in this peaceful garden.

There’s nothing quite like a quality cemetery.

Huxley Cemetery

In the past 20 years or so, I’ve entered periods of my life where it feels like every second person I know is dealing with cancer, which quite often means I’m attending another funeral and visiting another cemetery. I feel sad thinking that I’ve been a funeral pallbearer more times than I’ve been a wedding ringbearer.

Just as an observation of interest, the funerals I went to as a child were invariably the result of failing hearts or plugged-up arteries. But the memorial services I go to now are almost always cancer-related. You might wonder if this is significant –  I believe it is.

When you read my blog posts, I hope you occasionally find a golden nugget or two that draws you in and brings some personal meaning or recollection into your head. So it is that I attend funerals and find messages floating in the air, drifting downwards into my consciousness from above. Personal thoughts … eulogies … benedictions. How can anyone attend a funeral and not find themselves absorbed to some extent in what their own life and mortality means?

And a good part of these thoughts revolve around, “How can I avoid this fate for as long as humanly possible?” It’s only natural, we want to live. Not breathing and pumping good, red, oxygenated blood is just not an acceptable option.

And so the little voice inside, my own NASA computer, monitors every pain and itch and unknown glitch that befalls me.

It’s like the strange sounds we hear on airplanes that make us wonder if these are the final rumblings and creaks of a failing engine…just before we plummet to the ground in a fiery explosive ball of flames.

I know this sounds so neurotic, but I’m sure it’s a fairly common thought process. Is the bit of red on the toilet paper normal (-ish) blood or something more? Is the dull pain in my gut just a bit of standard indigestion or a swelling ball of malignancy? And that pimple-like growth that won’t go away?

And so some mornings begin like this: With a great ego flourish, I check myself out in the mirror…hmmm…more tummy than I want…a lot less head hair than I want…a few more wrinkles, damn…but what I really want to see is the state of my tumours. I have a few that I’m keeping an eye on to determine when the spots turn from black to blue and red…pencil size to dinner-plate size. Is this a basal cell carcinoma or a melanoma forming?

My skin is a spotty fright

and now it keeps me up at night

the moles and spots land like cormorants on the lake

will they be gone when I awake?  Unknown


And so, about once every year or two I haltingly toddle off to the doctor’s office. Inside my head there’s that little bastard voice telling me that these are the last few moments where I’ll have the freedom and solace of not knowing the source of my impending doom. Five minutes in the medical suite and my life will be transformed forever by the news of a certain death sentence. I can hear the high blood-pressure sound of my own heartbeat in my ears.

Hmmm, what songs do I want played at my funeral?

Then, like most things we imagine and worry about in life, it turns out I have Seborrheic Keratoses or other “normal” growths that occur naturally and are not a worry. Phew, the Grim Reaper has been delayed once again. Good news and my anxiety attacks recede for another year.

But … one day, maybe next year, maybe 25 years from now, the news won’t be as positive. No amount of plastic surgery trickery will obstruct the inevitable.

TEMPUS FUGIT…time flies.

We all wander the halls of life. It is a narrow, one way passage. No one can decide in a moment to turn around and go back. Time doesn’t work that way. So, just as if we were in an airport, we continue to stroll forwards on the moving walkway. Even if we stop to observe the beauty of a moment, the walkway keeps advancing us slowly forward, unceasing. Something I’m learning too as I grow older is that the walkway picks up speed as we move further along. Minutes feel like seconds, years like days.

So I’m trying to celebrate the idea that there are many wonderful moments in this passage, mixed in with the inevitable sorrows. When I do reach the end of the hall, I can hopefully turn and look back and treasure the gold I unearthed in myself, in my friends and family, in the moments of quiet solitude and beauty, and in the moments where I’ve suffered pain or experienced jubilation.

     The sun, the rain, the sweet despair,

     Great tales of love and strife.

     And somewhere on your path to glory

     You will write your story of a life.

……………………………….Harry Chapin