A friend of mine here in Paris recently went through some dicey moments health-wise. I wouldn’t be so dramatic as to say that the priest had been called to the bedside to administer last rites, but the possibility of an early and unwelcome departure from this realm was definitely on the table.
The shock and awe of having all those things on your ‘bucket list’ or ‘to do list’ suddenly ripped off the writing pad and tossed into the waste basket was a shock, even to my grizzled and world-wise Citizen of the World.
We all assume that we have some indeterminate but ample amount of time to do the things we want to do, take care of the things we need to do, and get through those things that we have to do.
The Grim Reaper is notorious for his disregard of all things…wanted, needed, or obligatory. He cares not one whit, so many of us come to realize, often too late.
But realizing this–and living to tell the tale–can be of extraordinary benefit, as we shall learn.
A few short weeks after his near Brunch with Death, my friend was out of the American Hospital and back in La Vie Parisienne. Appointments in heavy duty boardrooms, lunches in five star establishments, cocktails on the rooftop…his life quickly resumed its high octane pace, a veritable whirlwind of engagements with the great and the good, the famous and the infamous, the naughty and the just plain bad.
Such is his life, so much so that having a coffee with the expat American writer was a bridge too far. After our initial introduction and an accidental second meeting at a cocktail party, I didn’t expect to hear from him.
Still, I sent a note when I’d heard he was out of intensive care. To my surprise, he responded almost immediately. We scheduled a coffee in the first arrondissement, and he showed up promptly, filled with vigor, brimming with enthusiasm, a man on a mission.
“I wanted to make sure we had a chance to catch up,” he said before even sitting down in the red leather booth. “Being knocked on my ass for two weeks was like being in prison for ten years.”
“But you’re all good now…?”
“Oh, hell yes. I’m better than good, and I’ll tell you why. I had tubes up and into every orifice of my body, monitors stuck on every square inch of my chest, and nothing but 18 hours a day to mull over all the things I hadn’t done in my life.”
Coffee arrived and sugars went down all around. A quick stir, and then a sip.
“I had all these regrets. And they were regrets because I thought I was gonna die there for a minute. And when I didn’t die, I flipped all those regrets into priorities and now I’m making sure I address those priorities. Some big issues. Some small sh*t. You know why? Because I have the opportunity to.”
“Sounds like a great thing to do.”
“It is, and you should do it. Not to be disparaging, but you’re old as dirt.”
“This kind of thing could happen to anybody,” he continued. “I’d been meaning to send you a text and get together. And just never did it.”
“So now we’re doing it.”
“We are. How’s the new book coming?”
“Done. September 15 release date.”
“What’s this one about?”
“How to be a rich man…or woman.”
“And you didn’t ask me?”
We laughed again.
“You were flat on your back, having an epiphany.”
“Yeah. I’m a slacker like that. I gotta go. Flip those regrets–”
“Yeah. And flip ’em now.”