This Christmas I went to
see a friend of mine whom I've known since leaving the Army back in 1998. Its
funny how time flies, back then I still smoked cigarettes and wasn't packing
around the middle aged gut I now sport. I had just started into a new career as
a truck driver and somehow me and this fellow became friends. Actually there was
a minor accident involved, but that is another story for another day.
When I published:
THE EQUINOX this fellow came out for my book signing and called me a few weeks after
he bought the book and said. "I really enjoyed your book Mark," then
added. "I didn't think I would, but I did."
When I asked him why, his
answer was honest.
"I didn't buy the
book because I thought it would be good, I bought it because you wrote it and
your a friend. So I thought, even if it's a piece of shit, its Marks book, so
I'm going to buy it."
"I remember you
telling me, that if it was a shitty book you'd tell me," I replied
"Well it isn't a
shitty book, I was surprised, I was sucked right in. In fact I can't wait for
the next one."
We were 3000 kilometres
apart when that phone call happened, roughly 1500 miles for my friends to the
South. That phone call meant quite a bit, because it came from a friend who
wasn't afraid to hurt my feelings. This guy has always been like that,
sometimes we'd get into heated discussions because he wasn't afraid to speak
his mind, but though we rarely see each other I was always happy to chew the
rag over the phone to see how things were going.
It had been a few months
since we talked and my wife got a phone message from his lady. I've known her
as long as I known him, Actually I knew both of them before they became a
couple. They are good for each other, friends, partners, lovers. The message was short and mysterious: 'Hi Karen, can
you give me a call, I need to tell you something.'
My heart sank when I heard
My first thought was that
he'd suffered a heart attack or been in a wreck, but I placed that call and got
news that no parent wants to hear. His youngest son was in palliative care in
the final stages of terminal cancer. Having had a few beers and still in the
throes of jet lag I wasn't able to get down to the hospital until the next day.
We rolled in not long after suppertime and entered a room where the family held
vigil for this young man who was no longer conscious, but still fighting. The
cancer had spread throughout his body, in his organs, his brain and they had
operated after two of the tumors burst. Here was this young man, married only a
few years, father of two young kids who sat next to their dad as he was being
kept alive on tracheostomy care while they filled him with drugs to manage any
pain he might have.
A lump formed in my
throat, I looked across at my pal and said. "Jesus Christ man,
I'm so sorry, I don't know
what to say."
He smiled. "You don't
have to say nothing man. It's not your fault."
I gave him a hug and my
wife and I both choked back the tears.
He and his lady went with
us into the hall and we talked as other family members moved in and out of the
room. His other son showed up with his kids and I thought to myself how sad it
was that little children who should be hanging stockings or out playing in the
snow should have to stand vigil because their dad who was far too young was
finally succumbing to a battle he had fought with cancer over a number of
The visit went on for
about an hour and a half, not wanting to keep them we excused ourselves and
wandered back down to our car. I can't tell you how sad all of this makes me
and without asking permission of my friend I can't divulge his name or that of
his son, although later on I may update this blog if my friend permits it.
This morning I got a
message that this young man finally passed away after a lengthy battle with
cancer. While he died far too young and leaves behind a very young
family, I am happy to know that his Dad (my friend) was there with him until
the very end.
I would like to encourage
everyone to give generously to the Cancer Society as they work to find new
treatments and cures for this terrible disease that takes so many lives every
May the New Year bring you and yours health and