Saturday, February 12, 2011

Let me go swiftly

The concept of death has weighed heavily on me for the past month.  A close friend (Mark) was diagnosed with mesothelioma in September and, after one surgery, the prognosis quickly became that he was terminal. Initially, there was hope that the surgery was a success and that he had 5-10 years before this insidious cancer would claim him.  Within weeks, he was back in the hospital, where they found that the cancer had spread quickly to other parts of his chest cavity and organs.  He is now days away from death and it saddens us terribly.

I have long thought that the chances I took would eventually be the cause of my demise.  At a younger age, I drove recklessly at very high speeds.  I drag raced when I could, taunted bullies by egging their cars and had numerous car chases that could have ended in beatings.  When I took a wife, I felt that I owed her an explanation in the event of a car crash.  I told her that if it looked like I was speeding, I probably was and enjoyed every last minute.  A somewhat morbid thing to mention to your new, blushing bride, but I did it anyway.

Cars gave way to fast motorcycles and soon I had a whole new addiction to danger.  Yes, there were foolish stunts and the occasional bad judgement, but I survived it all.  The thought of crashing almost never enters my head when I ride although I do take extra precautions when the conditions are poor.  The thought of a high-speed crash resulting in an almost instantaneous death is nothing to fear.  Rather, I fear a slow, wasting death or a waste of my life.

Mark is a good man, an honest man, a doctor.  He, by his own admission, has lived an unremarkable life.  His greatest regret these past months is that he "didn't do anything wrong".  From that, I assume it to mean he didn't drink, smoke, speed or otherwise live an interesting life.  He stayed inside the lines.  He is a good father and husband and I know how proud his family is of him and his accomplishments.  Still, at a too-young age, his time is almost over and he's too late realized that he hasn't really lived.

Most of us have obligations to work or family that necessiate a lifestyle that is less than "cinematic".  That is, we have to pay our mortgages, rent, tuition and car payments and most of us don't get to earn our living in an exciting way.  We drive trucks or we work in an office or we work in some other fashion.  These mundane choices don't have to be the wholeness of our existence.  Rather, we can life life to it's fullest almost every day.

Those of us who ride understand that it's not the fear of crashing that makes us safe riders.  It's the fear that we might otherwise live sedentary lives, sitting safely on our sofas.  Perhaps my biggest fear of all is that no one would remember me.  So, I'm prone to outrageous behavior, actions and words.  If people don't like me, fuck them.  Stop following me on Facebook, then!

I will live, slightly larger than life.  I am the shadow I cast, from a light source six feet behind me.  I am no rock star, throw no tantrums and don't bust up hotels rooms but, I will be true to myself and in who I believe myself to be. We are, after all, our own creations.  I am a chameleon, adapting to each situation presented. I am a businessman in a suit, I am a biker in leather.  I am a racer, a lover and a fighter.  I fit my personality and persona to the need.  While I can't necessarily afford all of the toys and joys that money can buy, I can still have all of those experiences by not sitting on the sidelines of life.

Life is too short.  We ought to get a practice lifetime to make our mistakes and to learn and then the "real" one, in which we learn to enjoy ourselves.  But, perhaps some of you are way ahead of me in the realization of self.  All our clocks run down at some point, we just never know when.

Quoting anything from Mel Gibson's lips is corny but “Every man dies - Not every man really lives.” rings true.  At the end of your journey, what will you remember of the trip?  That you never took a risk, never flirted with danger, never felt your balls up in your stomach over what you just survived?

Last night, we dared each other to skydive this year and said we'd do it.  The funny thing is that, the gal I married is a bit of a risk-taker and for years I've looked at that photo of her jumping out of a plane as a bit crazy.  Well, bring on the crazy.  We have lots of living left to do.

Winter's almost over.  Mark will never see another Spring.  His family will find a way to carry on without his dark sense of humor.  I will lose a friend who made all of the mundane shit we had to do together all the more enjoyable.  Mark is a funny guy in a bad situation.  He'll succumb in just a couple of days.  I'd like to think that he will die with a wry smile on his face and a dirty thought.  Maybe he did live a little, even if only in his mind.

Godspeed Mark, and to all of us.  I hope to be out riding soon, pushing my comfort levels and the boundaries of good taste and judgement.  If I piss you off somehow well, remember that.

A low slow wave,

Joe Rocket

1 comment:

Doug said...

Well said, Joe. I'm sorry for the loss your friend. Good friends are a big part of what makes life worthwhile.

I've spent a lot of time lately at an "old folks home". I like to ask the people I meet their about their life. Some have amazing stories. Some have no stories, none, all they did was work and exist and now they wait to die. They look sort of embarrassed about that, and regretful.