Sunday, July 3, 2011

Nothing 'cliched and cheesy' about death kissed wishes and dreams and the lottery

The question I asked on evolved from a longer article I posted earlier on my blog at The initial question came from years of talking to, and interviewing  people who wished they had a chance to restart their lives.

I listened to the wishes and dreams they had not fulfilled for themselves and their families. Some were disappointed they had not achieved their goals. Some of the people I knew personally, some I did not. Working for a community paper afforded me the opportunity to meet people in various occupations, including local politicians.

The question on  was: “You win the lottery,  becoming an instant millionaire. You go to your doctor the following week, and you're told you have one year to live. What do you do with the short time you have left? Besides spending money on yourself and your family, how else would you spend your fortune, and on who? If you knew that death, not money was the prize, would you cash in? Name 3 wishes you would fulfill.”

 I got several responses but this one stood out for me. The person wrote that the questions “sounds so cliched and cheesy.” As a poet I never know who or what will ignite my muse on any given day. This comment inspired me to write this extended thought. I respect the respondent’s reply but I did not agree. That’s the way the blogger felt. There was no right or wrong answer. Maybe the person did not take the questions seriously, or maybe it was too personal.

 Whereas I was speaking of a physical death, there is another death in which we are very much alive and functioning out of necessity. Years ago  I saw a movie called “Dead Man Walking.” Some of us are dead people walking. Some of us may never be fortunate enough to win the real monetary lottery, but we will win a lottery. If it's in the cards we might realize three wishes if we're lucky.

Pre-death wishes and dreams are not cliched and cheesy. It’s very real when your death is sitting on your lap, waving a ticket in your face, forcing you to hurriedly re-exam where you went wrong in not fulfilling your goals or dreams. Life itself is a crap shoot, and we take our chances in the midst of that crap shoot. When life demands to know why we did not turn our tickets into a winner, we might say, “I wish I had a chance to buy another ticket.” Even rich, extremely successful people, in their honest moments, admit there is still a wish or dream that eluded them.

By now you can see that the question was personal to me. I did not expect agreement from the respondents. It was not a Yes or No or Multiple Choice question. Vanishing wishes and dreams deferred happens to us all.  But we all know in advance what we will do with a monetary win, but not the other kind of win.

I sat and talked to my father a few hours before his death. He was a hard working man who always put his family above himself. We were his lottery tickets that had no cash value. I had never talked to him about his dreams, but I knew he wanted to play professional baseball in the major or minor league. He had dreams of becoming a chef. That was a surprise to me. None of his children, all grown and on their own, had ever seen him cook. Boil coffee, yes. Cook a full meal, no.

Facing his fast approaching demise my father could sense life slowly slipping out of his body. His lottery ticket was turning itself in to get collect the prize: His death. He cried tears of sorrow and regret. I cried with him, reaching for his hand, hoping to make contact with his emotions and tears. He was my lottery ticket, the family's lottery ticket and death was forcing us to cash in.

In a matter of days there would be no more dreams. No more wishes to fulfill. No more slamming dominoes down on a table, and drinking a few beers on the weekend. Cliched and cheesy? No.

When death came into the  hospital room that sunny afternoon my father briefly looked at death. It was hoovering above him, or standing next to us as we stood quietly next to his bed. We observed shock on our father's face, his eyes wide open, his mouth opened in a silent protest. He could not strike a bargain, telling death that his numbers were not the winning ticket. His shocked expression said he was not ready to collect the prize. Realization of a numbers mix up would have sent death on his way. And we would have been overjoyed.

Days earlier my father prioritized his three wishes. There was nothing cliched and cheesy about them, or what might have been. Our days on earth are dictated by lottery numbers. The Bible tells us our days are numbered. I take that to mean that we purchase our ticket the minute we are conceived.

Wishes and dreams are a part of life, a part of the lottery package. Not one of them is cliched and cheesy.

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