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My oldest son hugged me and told me he loved me.

My youngest son did the same.

My middle son stops by to borrow my miter saw. I joke…if I die you can keep the saw.

My youngest daughter frowns. Will she ever understand my gallows humor?

Old pictures put on Facebook. Pictures of those who matter to me.

We watch The Equalizer, the one with Denzel Washington.

My sister calls. She loves me and tells me it won’t be cancer.

And then we watch the Mentalist. Will Jane marry Lisbon?

My brother tries to call but the phone dies. He texts and tells me he loves me and he hopes it isn’t cancer.

My last meal, a ham sandwich.

I put my wallet on the table, along with my cane and camera.

Prescription list.

Symptom list.

Current diagnoses.

Past surgeries.

Past diagnostic tests.

Durable power of attorney.

Living will.

Shower and shave.

It’s time for bed.

Polly looks at me and I look at her. Our looks tell the story.

I put on Passenger, in a few minutes Polly is asleep.

I can’t sleep, just like every other night, the pain, oh the pain.

I’m nervous, dare I show weakness and say I’m worried?

I pick up from the nightstand Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World.

I can’t seem to focus on the words.

I get up and put on my robe.

I sit down and write Polly a letter.

If something goes wrong and this is the last day of life for me, I want Polly to know that I love her and that the 38 years we’ve spent together have been wonderful.

I tell her if the doctor says I have cancer or something else is seriously wrong, we will face it together. I have much to live for, Polly, the kids and grandkids.

I lay out my clothes. Sweatpants, underwear, white socks, orange long sleeved thermal shirt, tennis shoes. And my orange Bengals hat. It matches my shirt.

I feel tired now, the hydrocodone, tramadol, flexeril, and temazapam are doing their job.

Passenger plays on.

I know what lies ahead.

Paper work.

Put on this gown.

Endless questions.

Time to put the IV in. How many times will they have to stick me?

Dr Sharma will come in to talk to me, as will the anesthesiologist.

It’s show time.

A kiss, a hug, and I love you.

Come nine hours from now, what will the doctor say?

I am ready, come what may, I am ready.

If it’s cancer, I’ve made my wishes known, no surgery.

If it’s not, then what?

Maybe it’s just my gallbladder but that doesn’t explain all my symptoms.

I remain my doctor’s enigma, his puzzling hard case.

No prayers.

No thoughts of heaven or hell.

My thoughts go no farther than my lover and friend lying next to me. Our shared experience is the sum of life for me.


Passenger plays on.

I sure would like to eat another ham sandwich.



  1. Avatar

    Been thinking of you and Polly all weekend, Bruce.
    Will be waiting to hear what’s going on and hoping it’s something fairly simple to treat and be done with.

  2. Pingback:What We’re Waiting For | On The Other Hand

  3. Avatar


    Thinking of you and your family. Hoping that it is something easily treatable.

    I had my gallbladder out over a decade ago. When it flared up, the pain was absolutely debilitating, and the minutes stretched on for what felt like eternity. Then it would go away (likely a stone passing) only to come back a few weeks later. A couple years of this, and then one night the pain was so bad that I ended up in the ER. Ultrasound showed lots of stones, and I was scheduled for surgery the next day (fun). When I got out of recovery, the Dr told me that the gall bladder was this close to rupturing. Another day or so, and that would have been bad news.

    Not sure that matches your symptom history, though everyone’s situation is different. That said, if it is GB-related, having it removed — though not the easiest recovery in the world — did take away that pain. I’ve never experienced it since, thankfully.

    Here’s hoping everything comes out well.

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    I am sending you warm hugs, computer screen smooches and saltwater-scented wishes today all the way from the Maritimes. You ROCK.

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    Having left “the faith” and prayers behind, facing something like this on your own shows the depth of your character. I admire and respect you for your resoluteness to face whatever comes — which I earnestly hope brings a deep sigh of relief.

  6. Avatar

    That, undoubtedly, is one of the most beautiful poetic works I have read. The realism and pain come through in a way that makes me almost feel the moment.
    Peace, my friend,

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    Big hugs from Mn. Best hopes for finding out what’s going on. Feel free to sacrifice the appropriate animal for help/sustenance. Ham sandwich is good.


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    I have no evidence to back this up (yeah, I know, and atheist/skeptic no no) … but I’ll go with the odds and believe FULLY that you will find this to be some kind of benign issue that is correctable. You’ll persevere through recovery and go on to many more years of being the thorn in the side of theologians globally. That said, I would make sure to get a sharpie pen and write on all your limbs (that you don’t want to lose) “Do NOT remove!”.

    On a serious note – I wish you all the best and strength, peace and resolve in the face of any diagnosis. If the worst should happen, I’d like to simply say – Thank you. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for your considerable insight and experience. It’s been a privilege to be a reader of your blog … but you’re gonna be blogging for a good long while to come 😉

  9. Avatar

    Bruce, best wishes to you as always. You are an amazing individual. I don’t know if you have found out anything yet, but I hope it isn’t cancer and that it is fixable. At least if you still believed it was all part of God’s plan, I could at least say that God’s plan sucks! And it always does, for someone, at least, other than God of course.

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