I read this story on Fox News a couple of days ago:
A couple married for nearly 50 years had just enjoyed a cocktail on their deck, where they talked about their inevitable deaths.
As they walked back inside their Vermont home, a piece of ice fell off the roof and fatally struck 73-year-old Linda Freedman Scharrenberg in the back of the head, according to the couple’s daughter, Jodine Meyers.
In the porch conversation, Meyers said her father told his wife he didn’t know how he could live without her.
Sometimes coincidence borders on creepy. And if you think about it for more than a moment it can make you question your disbelief in fate.
Another news story I recall telling on the radio many years ago was about a man fishing at a lake while his family was preparing a picnic table nearby. He hooked a very small perch and it made him laugh. Lifting the tiny fish still on his line above his head he called to his wife and kids, “Hey, look at this whopper!” As she grabbed for her camera the guy looked up at the sunfish dangling on the line over his head, throwing back his head in laughter.
The fish wiggled off the hook, fell into the man’s open mouth and lodged in his throat suffocating him.
Sometimes even God can make clumsy work of things left until the last minute.
Have you ever stopped to think about what you want your final words to be? Neither have I but I’m thinking about it now.
I was surprised to learn this morning that Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York currently running for president, was apparently the final thought that crossed Kirk Douglas’ mind before he died last week at the age of 103.
According to this morning’s New York Post, Kirk’s son, actor Michael Douglas, told Bloomberg supporters, “I don’t know if he was pulling my leg or not but one of the last (things) that he said in the hospital when he saw me, he asked me to lean over close to him and I leaned over close to him and he said, ‘Mike can get it done’.
The Bloomberg volunteers went wild.
Excuse my skepticism but really? The man’s final thought was about presidential politics? He’s 103, on his death bed, and his lasting legacy statement was a campaign endorsement?
If I was his son, and let’s be frank here, Michael Douglas is 75 and he could follow his father into the Hollywood Forever Cemetery any minute now, I would be devastated.
Why didn’t he tell me how wonderful I am in movies?
Why didn’t he say he just say he loved me?
I’m thinking it was a misunderstanding. It’s more likely that Kirk Douglas, in his weakened condition, thought someone had asked him who should deliver his eulogy and he gave the obvious answer, his famous son, Michael.
“Mike can get it done.”
Or maybe that’s not at all what he said. I interviewed Kirk Douglas a few years after his stroke. He was very kind and gracious but his speech was severely affected and he was hard to understand.
He may have just said, “I’d like a cookie, please.”
Anyway, this got me thinking about my final words. If I could plan ahead to say something memorable, something adorable, pithy, brief and quotable on my death bed, what would it be?
You know me. I’d want to do something funny like bolt upright in wide-eyed amazement and say something that seemed to come to me in a blinding flash of revelation: “Death! Yes but no! There is no death! I get it now, the true meaning of life is…………..!”
And then I’d plop back into my pillow, eyes closed, never to open again.
The reality is I’d probably just tell whoever was near me how much I love my family, how I’ve lived a life filled with love and laughter. I’d just say I’m happy.
That would be nice.
You know what would really be a pisser, though?
What if you thought of exactly the right words and practiced until you were able to express them with the skill of a classical Shakespearean actor, the perfect words uttered in perfect understated sincerity (I’d try to channel Peter O’Toole). Then you smile wistfully, a blessed child about to return home; a small tear would trickle down one cheek.
Your family would sigh and sniff; a muffled sob, hugs all around.
They’d take turns squeezing your hand and kissing your forehead.
Then twenty minutes later you wake up and realize, “Shit. Now I have to think of something else to say.”
In Texas fall teases you like a puppy. It yaps at you, snaps playfully at your fingers and then darts away to plan another surprise attack.
I wore a sweatshirt last week. Today it will be 80. Tomorrow could bring snow. It’s the wonder of Texas weather that I love because I don’t like predictability.
Life itself is unpredictable and that’s how it should be, even and maybe especially life’s tragedies.
A man arises before dawn, showers, shaves, kisses his slumbering wife and kids goodbye and then he leaves home and dies.
I don’t mean to be morose. It’s just the unpredictable nature of life.
On my early morning radio news shows I’ve told these stories daily for decades. We get used to them, both in the telling and the hearing because the stories are framed in frigid cop talk, in matter-of-fact terms detached from emotion and personal reality.
“Dallas police responded to a fatal head-on crash early this morning. Officials say a wrong-way driver slammed into a late model Toyota southbound on I-75 near Walnut Hill. The driver of the Toyota died at the scene.
We don’t even learn his name.
Let’s see how that’s affecting traffic: live with Traffic on the Fives, here’s Bill Jackson…”
Bill explains that emergency vehicles have the wreck confined to the divider with officers directing a ten minute slowdown into the right two lanes.
“Meanwhile, inbound on the Dallas North Tollway there’s a slowdown at Northwest Highway…”
The Toyota driver’s wife and kids are still sleeping as a hundred thousand commuters deal with a traffic jam.
The family will probably be wolfing down breakfast on hurried schedules when the knock comes at the door.
But, I digress. I was talking about unpredictable fall weather and the unexpected turns in our daily lives.
Most people seem to live their lives focused on annoyance, oblivious to the small joys of the moment. We worry about trivial things and bitch about each day for trivial reasons.
We wish it was summer, we wish it was Friday.
We wish away the unpredictably wonderful moments of our lives.
We’re constantly told to live for today, in the here and now, and to stop and smell the roses. I don’t know anyone who has figured out how to do that but I’m working on it.
I thank God each morning for another day of life.
I don’t wonder if He exists. I’m just happy to be grateful.
Before I go to sleep at night I conjure images of my wife and children, my grandchildren, the friends I’ve made and the handful of very special people I’ve known and loved in my life. I give thanks for them all. Then I drift off to sleep without a care in the world.
Tomorrow will be another unpredictable day and though the possibilities include everything, glorious and tragic, I’m looking forward to it.
I’m going outside to mow the lawn now. It might snow tomorrow or I could die tonight.