Monday, July 9, 2012


A couple of bad nights.

That's all it takes.

A few hours lost and your thoughts wander more than other nights.

The morning comes in like a sledgehammer. You truly are vampiric as light flows over you like safflower oil, flooding your eyelids with spikes of day walker insults.

This is when you dig deep. What is the beast that makes your breath short and your night long?

For me, it's always the same.

I go back to 6 years old. My left hand is taped to what amounts to be a 2 x 4. It still burns where the clot was flushed a few days before. If you don't know what that is, it's when your IV gets a blood blockage. Instead of a re-stick, they 'flush' the IV with more pressure till the clot breaks.


But that wasn't what truly flashed back.

I honestly don't know anymore.

It may have been the nine shots I needed to prevent me from catching chicken pox from the kid down the hall. Or the fact that I had to first watch my dad take a shot in the arm first to prove it didn't hurt. It 'popped' and he blinked. Years later he said it still hurt.

It could have been the sticks, re-sticks and more sticks at 3 am by someone who always asked "How are you sleeping, Dear?"

It may have been the pings, pops, hisses and moans from the machines and other patients as the quiet of night turned into a cacophony of inhuman clicks in an unnatural symphony.

Lately, sleep, no sleep, depression, anger, joy....whatever. I've made a choice.

Call it karma, positive thoughts, praying, wishful thinking or Universal speak but I have resolved to be thankful for one simple fact - I am here.

Three years ago, I was convinced I was dead. That was it. I was to be no more. I never told anyone that before really. I was simply going to die too soon, too young, too bad.

To pull out of a daily tailspin isn't easy, trust me.

It is simple really - I am just thankful.

I often do those Hallmark moment scenes where I look up and I am thankful for a blue sky.

Before a run, I am grateful for a breath.

I am thankful that I can do normal things. I can walk, run, lift, whatever...

I can drive. I can think. My muscles can hurt. My back can ache. I can be hungry. I can be happy.

I can be everything because I am alive.

It's not a miracle. It is this side of hokey.

Some will nod knowingly and others will roll their eyes ruefully.

I find myself laughing at the little things that would bring me down. I cherish those that make my life a treasure around me.

Sure, someone somewhere will find all of this just a tad over the top. Sometimes I catch myself as well but even that doesn't matter. It is cool to be thankful whether it is an ocean breeze, a few words on a page or a 10 minute nap.

Doesn't matter really. It's all good because I am still here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dear John...

John Henseler

His name was John. I had known him for almost 12 years.

He was a simple person and I mean that in the most complimentary manner.

John was always polite, knowledgeable and definitely from the midwest where people tend to scare Northerners with their friendliness.

I spoke with him about 3 weeks ago - 3 weeks before his passing from a 2 year battle with colon cancer.

I don't always know what to say when someone passes on to the great spaces. Death is a reality for most, an afterthought for some, and a non-topic for others.

As a survivor, you are measured in inches. You are measured with instruments. You are measured by stats.

It can be said that John has converted to the final stat - the stat that scares nations.

I submit to all survivors and those that have fought and lost, that the stat that is never measured is character.

Character lies in the fight. We are dragged into this. No one raises their hand and says "pick me". It's a lottery. We start the fight, Day 1.

Our struggle? Normal life.

John walked the halls with a funny gait. Arthritis took its toll on his joints but never dulled his clear blue eyes. He always kept a military cut for his hair.

In the end, his walk was a pure struggle. His khakis barely clung to his hips after losing an undeterminable amount of weight.

I would ask him how he was doing.

"Pretty good. Doctors are getting together. They will call me"

A week would go by and I'd ask the same question.

That answer was always the same. In hindsight, he didn't want anyone to know. He knew he was a walking signpost and yet people still didn't truly know.

Character to keep marching. Character to do his job until, literally, the very end. Character to ask others how their day is going when your insides are dying.

I can't say anything that will make John or generations of others come back. I can honor them for the fight they put up 24/7/365 even if they aren't given that long to begin with.

There is no Rocky theme playing.

There is no fly by overhead. No fanfare by John Williams ushering the hero to a monument.

They are just people trying to live a normal life. There should be a coronation just for that.

Dear John,

I miss you...

Signed Joe

Here's your fly by....and sign off.

Just know that some of us won't be seeing you for at least another 50 years....