Sit and talk to Ron Anderson and you understand the great value of time.
Last week, we spent more than an hour talking about his inoperable cancer, his life and the timeline that doctors have given him. He was direct and at times funny and theatrical as you would expect from a man who has spent a lifetime in the theater, teaching and acting.
Since then, we have had several more conversations, albeit much shorter. I consider each of them a treasure, and have pulled a pearl of wisdom every time.
But in that first conversation, Ron summed up his approach to his serious illness this way:
“Chuck, I feel blessed. I’ve been given a gift of time and I feel blessed to have it. I really do. I feel lucky. I feel fortunate.”
How many 62-year-old people do you know who would say they are “fortunate” and “lucky” facing a timeline that may or may not be right?
Not many. I would argue the ones who would are the ones who have lived a purposeful life.
Ron says he been given a gift of time. He can use it as he sees fit, align his priorities, fight the illness and embrace those who mean the most to him.
“Absolute clarity,” he called it.
Ron’s cancer has had me thinking a lot about my younger brother, Chip. He died Monday, Aug. 26, 2002, of a heart attack while playing racquetball.
At 40, Chip didn’t have that precious gift of time. A husband, father, son, brother, attorney, First Baptist Church of Eufaula deacon and friend to many, his life ended without any warning. None.
I wonder if he would have lived his life any differently if someone had told him on Aug. 26, 2001, “You got a year, buddy. Make it count.”
I wonder if I would have treated him any differently if I had known he had a year. I know it is a futile question, but it has been heavy on my heart since the first conversation with Ron.
I know, death eventually gets us all.
Some of us will go quickly, seemingly without warning. Others will face illnesses that linger and eat away at us. They are two distinctly different paths to the same place.
It’s life; and it’s death.
When a doctor gives you a timeline based on science, you do what Ron Anderson has done you deal with it. You let it bring clarity to your life and you get rid of the things that don’t matter.
And you have the great courage to say things like, “I feel blessed to have it.”
What may not look like a blessing to some is a great blessing when viewed through another lens.
Just ask Ron Anderson. But, I really wish I could ask Chip.