David was dying, and he knew it. The cancer had taken over his body and, as he described it, “gotten him into every medical journal possible.” It was 2008 when the doctors had told David that he didn’t have much time left. Little did the world know, this fight would last nearly ten years.
There are endless aspects of life that we have no control over. Sometimes, life is cruel and makes zero sense. For example, why does cancer take the lives of so many? Throughout the five years we interacted, David taught me that we can uniquely manage our attitude and outlook. Whether it was us for breakfast on a summer morning or in the hospital in the last weeks of his life, his courage never faltered. His stories and lessons deserve to be heard by the rest of the world. Consider me the messenger.
1. Always, and I Mean Always, Act with Kindness.
David was an area umpire for forty-some years and was nearing the end of his career when my playing career was starting. He approached me after seeing me pitch and his kindness was unrivaled. He genuinely cared about everyone on the baseball field and constantly wore a smile. Little does he know, I started watching David as he interacted with players and coaches. Everyone respected this man, but it wasn’t your typical “he’s the umpire and we better get on his good side.” Even when conflict occurred, which happens often in the game of baseball, he was extremely calm. David was stern, but I never heard him yell or use profanity. Kindness was constantly on his mind and it was his mission to display that to all. He would be remembered for the right reasons and that has come true.
2. Perspective, Perspective, Perspective
Sure, David had cancer and his future was grim. He could’ve easily been negative and gave up his fight early on. But, David had something that we all need. Perspective. He may have had cancer, but he also had a nice home, friends, family, a wonderful community, and all the beautiful details around him. When I visited David in the hospital near the end of his life, he blew me away with perspective. He recited Bible verses that gave him strength and told stories that had shaped his life. David wasn’t dying, he was living right before my eyes. Here I was, twenty years old and healthy, and David’s appreciation was most likely above mine. His glass was half-full nor half-empty, it was full.
3. Avoid Anger
David spent nights in the hospital, had tests done, dealt with plenty of bad news, and had doctors struggling to stay on the same page. He voiced his frustration with me and apologized from his hospital bed about being grumpy. This caught me extremely off guard and I had to tell him that he didn’t seem mad at all, which he chuckled at. I’ve seen people get angrier about their latte taking too long to be prepared than David was about the miscommunication between doctors. He avoided anger at all costs because happiness was most important. David’s goal was clear and that was to enjoy every second he was granted. Life throws unique challenges at each of us, but it’s how we deal with them that really matters.
4. Have Some Fun
Our limitations only define us if we allow them too. Physically, David was becoming rather weak and he was constantly watching his health. Mentally, David was sharper than ever and took great pleasure in bragging about his card playing skills. Here I was, sitting next to David in his hospital bed preparing for a sad conversation, and he starts telling me about times he beat up on his family in cards. The smile on his face told me everything I needed to know about how David dealt with various challenges. He jumped from serious topic to telling jokes, as if there were a rhythm to our conversation. David’s balance was unique, and I soon realized that everything came back to having fun. If we aren’t living to have fun, why live? It may have physically hurt David to laugh, but he did it anyway because we are meant to enjoy this life.