Just before my road trip home to New Hampshire to visit my mom for her birthday, an old coworker in Boston told me the ugly news that our friend and coworker Steve had pancreatic cancer and a year to live. Making the trip up anyway, I decided to swing by for a visit. The news was traumatizing; yet I am always known for being the spunky, silly one at the office. I thought I could charm Steve with my story of how I had to cancel a meeting with the Embassy of Spain to go see him. I thought about bringing some chocolates with me because he used to always keep a stash in his right-side drawer. I fantasized about how funny it would be for me to bring an actual drawer with me and put the chocolates inside. That would make him smile.
After a missed encounter at the hospital, I debated on if I should make one more effort to visit him. A year is not enough time…but it would be enough for me to make another visit around Easter or Mothers’ Day or some other holiday. I pushed forth anyway, finally finding Steve’s brother in-law, a cousin and an aunt in Steve’s hospice room. And apparently, in the bed in front of him, near death, was my buddy Steve. The cancer had moved quickly. The year prognosis had been cut to maybe two weeks. But that guy wasn’t the Steve I knew. That much I was sure.
Steve, if you are still there when this message is posted, I am sorry for talking about you in public. I know you have always been a private person. But there are things everyone here must know.
Everyone here must know that some people are investment bankers and are up to their ears in work. They are not famous movie stars or astronauts but they still make a difference to quiet groups of friends that surround them. They take their coworkers out to lunch, they talk about their dating lives, they make light fun of their friends, they smile often. And then they find out that they are dying and before they have a chance to pack their bags, say their goodbyes and tie up lose ends they are dead. Sometimes one day you are healthy and the next day you cannot move and this is how life is.
I don’t write this to scare anyone, though cancer is, indeed, quite scary. I do it to emphasize that this one moment, not even five minutes ahead of us, but now– this is absolutely all the time we have for certain. Each moment following now is a precious gift and we must take as much advantage of it as we can. How? That is up to each of us. I know many Go Girls here who would probably choose to travel the world for the rest of their days if they knew the end was near. Others would do the opposite- they would stay home. Still others would find a mix of the two.
But please, whatever you do, do it with gusto. Do it because you love it. Do it because it’s terrifying. Do it because you’re alive. And do it in celebration of life, and in memory of the ones that have gone before us.
Editors note: Shortly after writing this, I found out that Steve had died just two hours earlier. Below is the only picture of Steve that I have. May he rest in peace.
Beth, thank you for your memories of a loyal and trustworthy friend. I don’t know if Steve really realized how much he would be missed. I surely do miss him. Let’s all remember to say what we need to say to our loved ones while we have a chance. As Steve would say, “good luck” and be well. Stu