When I heard my brother-in-law was planning his memorial service, I called him and asked if he was giving up. After all, his doctors had given up on him a long time ago—they were always telling Mark how he wasn’t going to last very long.
“Liver cancer is fast,” they’d explain, and just to make things clear they’d offer him a helpful estimate, like one, two, or even three months. And three months later Mark would still be plugging away, despite the helpful estimate.
So they’d come up with another estimate and remind him to put his affairs in order, and that time would also pass and Mark’s affairs would be quite orderly. But he was still alive, and possibly one of their most uncooperative patients, EVER, especially considering how he’d been pulling this stunt for almost three years.
“I’ve outlived all my expiration dates,” Mark liked to tell us, a line that always made us laugh because Mark was our Miracle Man, our Survivor. He was the Guy Who Just Did Not Quit. The guy who was beating the thing trying to kill him.
So I got on the phone and I flat out asked him: was he planning his funeral because he’d given up? Because he wasn’t going to fight anymore?
He just said I was being kind of silly. “Everybody dies,” he told me. “Everybody should plan their memorial service. You mean, you haven’t taken care of yours yet?”
He seemed surprised when I said I hadn’t, like planning one’s funeral was such an important but mundane task you might find it on everybody’s To Do list: 1. Get groceries. 2. Call Mom. 3. Plan my funeral.
I never thought of it like that, Mark, but you’re right. One of these weeks I’ll get around to it, I promise.
But not this week.
This week we’re helping prepare for Mark’s service, the one he planned for himself.
And even though we know he’s in a better place—even though we know he’s not suffering any more, that he’s at peace with God—our hearts are still broken.
Our Miracle Man is gone.
December 1949 — September 2006