Friday, May 29, 2015

The Big Diseasy

  John Woods for National Post

I tend to pay attention to the deaths of those who die younger than me, and age fifty-one is definitely in my rearview mirror. Mike O'Brien, a longtime CBC comedy writer and an actor who played a recurring character on "Corner Gas," died of cancer recently. O'Brien wasn't keen on dying young, yet he remained thoughtful and playful to the end, as is evident in his blog called The Big Diseasy, a play on The Big Easy.

Here is his final blog post from last Sunday -- last Sunday! While I would challenge his "faith is earned" observation, who am I to quibble with a courageous dead guy.

Do you gotta have faith?

Sorry for the delay.  I went golfing two weeks ago and tore something in my upper thigh. It was extremely ouchy and I didn’t feel like writing. But at least it had nothing to do with cancer. Several well-intentioned people have encouraged me to embrace Jesus Christ as part of my cancer journey. One reader observed I never write about the role of faith in my life and looming death.

Faith is earned. I have faith in my oncologists. I have faith in my radiologist, my surgeons, my nurses, my pharmacist and my counsellors. They all helped me live longer. I have faith my palliative care team will help me through my final footsteps.
After years of surgery and chemo and radiation burns and pain, I have a hard-won faith in my own body. To paraphrase E.E. Milne, I was stronger than I knew. Above all, I have faith Robin will guide Will toward a fine life. That’s the belief I treasure the most.

Many people pray for me. I appreciate their efforts. Knowing that other people care about me is spiritually uplifting and therefore medically beneficial. I feel stronger. Thank you.
But I have to continue to believe what I always have. I am a secular humanist. I believe we can achieve ethical, kind co-habitation, based on science, not superstition. It incorporates some of the teachings of prophets like Christ, Buddha and Muhammad (image not available).

I admit, my internal monologues sometimes turn into dialogues with unseen powers. “If you’re there, I would love to go camping one more time.” But is that faith, or bargaining? I refuse to be a death-bed convert, finding God one second before midnight. If that’s not hypocritical, it is certainly convenient. Of course, I may be wrong. I often am. Fortunately, if God really exists, I’m confident he’ll look at my overall record and let me slide on the faith/skeptic issue. It just sounds like the kind of decent thing he’d do.

I've known a number of people through the years who talk a really good game about heaven but in the end are terrified about dying. Sadly, my own clergy Dad couldn't talk about his impending death. Honestly, I have no idea how I will face the end, even though I'm in the eternal life business. And because I follow the Christ of love, I suspect that all death-bed converts are welcome. I think there may be a parable or two to support that notion.

Are you ready to meet your Maker? Are you just "dust in the wind" and good with that? What do you think of Mike O'Brien's last blog entry?



Judy McKnight said...

I admire Mike for his honesty, and his admission of faith in the medical people who have walked with him through the last few years and months, as well as his repulsion of "last minute superstitions" ... and I guess my hope is that I can live my life so that others will miss me when I am gone, and talk about me fondly... nobody likes to envision the end of life - I am not afraid of death, but am terrified of the dying process and all of the ravages of failing health...I have seen enough to fear that kind of demise where one is totally dependent on the kindness and caring of others to look after for the other side of this life - well, I do trust in Christ's words ... I go to prepare a place for you ... and there are a few familiar faces that I hope to meet over there, too...but not just yet!

roger said...

Well, this is a nice, light blog for a Friday! Just kidding. Death is definitely a subject I've been thinking of a lot more these days than ever before. Having had a few friends die in their early 50's in the last five years has made me a little twitchy! Every one my friends had been an avid exerciser and in great shape. One of them dropped dead of a heart attack while washing dishes! Unfortunately, that hasn't gotten me out of doing household chores(sorry, perhaps a little off colour police humour there).

I guess I can understand Mike O'Brien's thought processes. I really hope there is something else after this life....but who knows? I just know it won't be what it is now, and I find that scary. I sometimes wonder what's the point of doing anything, as we are all going to perish one day.

I guess, ultimately, I try to live each day to the fullest - as cliché as that is - and try to brighten someone's day along the way. When I can find the time, ie when I retire in a few years, I want to get a lot more involved in volunteer work, possibly starting up a program for the developmentally disabled.

Judy McKnight said...

Roger, I have a fridge magnet that says "No man was ever shot while doing the dishes", but nothing about a heart attack ! (We just never know ...) I am pretty sure here is something on the other side, just because of "visitation" experiences I have had ... my mom, who comforted me as I returned home from KGH when she passed, in 1981, and assured me that I should not cry, because "I am fine - everything is beautiful here..." and my late husband, who said nothing but smiled and handed all of his keys to me, 18 months after he passed, and walked away... can't explain it, was not expecting it, but it was needed at the time.

roger said...

Thanks Judy - your experiences and experiences of some of my friends show there very likely is something on the other side. I'm just not in s hurry to get there!

Judy McKnight said...

Nor am I, Roger ... David, where are you in this conversation???

David Mundy said...

I'm so glad you had this little chat! I am attending the annual meeting of Bay of Quinte Conference, hanging on every word spoken in the court ZZZzzzzzzz