Friday, May 22, 2009

After a Long and Courageous Battle....

Along the course of our life together, my wife and I have had probably more than our fair share of unusual discussions. A couple nights ago, things took a decidedly weird tone.

Brian Williams was in the process of doing a promotional item - oh, wait, I mean a “news story” - about how nine million people had watched the NBC program about Farah Fawcett’s waning days dealing with cancer. Not all that big a number when you consider there are 304 million Americans by today’s estimate. But a large audience for a TV show.

We briefly discussed how neither of us would want our medical issues made so public, and after a pause, my bride announced “if I die of cancer, I don’t want you to put anything in my obituary about how I had a long and courageous battle. It’s so cliché and everybody does it.”

I am not here to disparage what anyone puts into their spouse’s obituary, because it’s so intensely personal and usually written under great duress. Many funeral homes have little forms that help you with handy tips about what to put in the obit. Nowadays, any funeral home worth its salt has a website where they list the name of the deceased and allow you to make online comments.

My wife and I have a mutual friend who has long-standing instructions to his wife that if it fits, she should write “died after WINNING a courageous battle with cancer” in his obit. He’s pretty good with prose, and loves to thumb his nose at dreck like sports clichés. Last night one of the Brewers coaches said “we have to keep our swagger but still be humble”. Huh? No one who swaggers is humble. Sports cliché dreck.

I’m not sure what lessons we were to take from the public expose of Farah Fawcett’s travails, since we didn’t watch the program. The snippets we saw as NBC populated its other programming with enticements to view the Fawcett tragedy were pretty grim. I’d prefer to remember Farah as the ultimate poster goddess of the 70’s. I am sad for Farah and everyone else who has dealt with cancer.

Both my wife and my mom are cancer survivors. My wife had that amazing Mohs Surgery that they do at UW-Health, invented right here in Madison. Because of my years living in southern California and the Gulf Coast, I’ve had three precancerous lesions cut off my skin. And that’s as “public” as I’ll get.

So what did we decide about the wording of the obit, if my wife should ever succumb to cancer? After a bit of discussion, we agreed I should write “cancer kicked my wife’s ass. I’m miserable without her. Send me large amounts of cash.”

Whistling past the graveyard.

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