Friday, June 16, 2006

Another man's shoes

Just when you think you've reached your lowest point and nothing in your life could be worse, you find out you were wrong.

I received a phone call this afternoon from one of the hams who reads the PPRAA newsletter. George has been a ham for more than fifty years. I've been looking for his phone number to do an article on a ham who died last December, what hams call a Silent Key (SK). From everything I have found out, Jake was a really wonderful man who gave generously of his time and resources to everyone around him, even to strangers encountering him for the first time. The Evil One told me about the first time he went to a campfest (weekend of camping and tailgate sales of ham equipment) and arrived too late to get a spot. Jake generously offered to share his camping space. There are literally tens of thousands of stories like that. George was one of Jake's best friends and had called me because I wrote about wanting to know more about Jake.

Today when George called it was with sad news. He wanted to place an ad in the next PPRAA newsletter to sell his ham equipment and some of his other items, too. George has terminal cancer.

After I finished typing up all the information, knowing from recent experience that he is selling his equipment so his wife won't have to deal with it when he's gone, and to generate some funds for her, I asked him how long he'd known he had only three months to live. "Two months," he said. I suddenly understood his need to talk about Jake, especially since there was no information in the newspapers or a single write-up about Jake and how much he had given to the city and the area.

George's cancer has metastasized to his bones, liver, and blood. The primary -- the original cancer -- was the prostate. He told me they got all the cancer in the prostate with radioactive seed implantation (a doctor inserts needle into the prostate and fills the needles with seeds of a radioactive isotope) and it didn't recur but, his doctor told him, the chemotherapy he's been taking speeded up the cancer that has traveled through his blood and into his vital organs and bones. They gave him the wrong kind.

What this brave man is going through is so much worse than my disappointment over last night and he's handling everything in the way I hope I would handle news that I have three months to live.

My father told me a couple weeks ago that he has bone cancer. His primary was prostate cancer as well. His prostate cancer is gone but his battle isn't over yet. The doctors told him his bone cancer is slow growing and I pray he doesn't opt for chemotherapy either.

So many men of my father's generation, men like George and Jake, gave so much to this country and to the people around them. These men are the shining beacons in America's history, men who are still around to remind us of simpler times when truth and honor and justice still meant something and when the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem brought tears to our eyes and stirred our heart with pride and excitement. As these men, and women, pass into the undiscovered country they take with them a part of history and a national sensibility that will be lost to us.

I'm going to call George again this weekend and go to see him. I need to talk to him about Jake and about his life. I want George to know that someone somewhere will be able to read about his life and his generosity and the part he played in history.

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