Thursday, December 10, 2015

A wonderful offer not seen on TV

I got a nice email the other day. It was like getting an actual letter. You know how few of those we get any more, right? Emails, for us at least, or becoming the same. We get lots of ads and so on that we don't want, and very little person to person communication.

So it was good to get an email that had some actual correspondence in it. Also, it was from someone I like and respect and haven't heard from in a long time. So, I was happy to get it.

It was from Ginger (not her real name, of course) and she wanted to tell me about an offer from someone she ran into as part of her job who reads my column and wanted Ginger to get a message to me. We can call him Roger... again, no real reason for Roger other than it sounds good. Ginger has red hair (hint), hence her name makes more sense than usual.

Anyway, Roger, according to Ginger, is a talented bagpiper and told her he will play any service for me, “should the unthinkable happen,” and that he would do it at no charge.

This is such an amazing offer, I was initially gobsmacked by it. Let's face it, when he says “any service... should the unthinkable happen,” he's obviously talking about when I die, presumably from multiple myeloma, though the offer did not seem to limit itself to that.

Think about this for a minute. How sensitive a subject is that? As I have observed here before, people have a difficult time talking about death and dying in front of me. To bring up the subject in regards to my exact situation is amazing. Not only is the offer very generous, but to be able to make it, knowing that it could be upsetting to me and my family, but willing to offer anyway. Wow.

I am from Scotland, so the thought of having someone play the bagpipes at my funeral has always been a natural. I realize that not everyone is a fan of the instrument, but I am. My daughter Jennifer had a bagpiper play at her wedding, and, while Sheri and I didn't have an actual piper, we did incorporate music from “Braveheart” and used a recorded version of “Amazing Grace” in our wedding.

At the same time, it would have been easy for Ginger just to say thanks and not pass along the offer because it was too difficult or embarrassing for her to do. After all, we are friends, and she certainly wouldn't want to make a difficult situation (my having cancer) worse. And how easy would it have been for her to tell Roger, “Yep. Passed it along. He said thanks but no thanks,” or to simply tell him I didn't reply? I think the answer is very.

So I truly want to thank both of them for getting this offer to me. As I wrote Ginger, we'll think about it and get in touch with Roger, one way or the other.

Now, in the never ending need I have for full disclosure, I must tell you this. In doing so, I take my own type of risk since you likely will think less of me. How much less, I could not guess, but less.

I am going to preface this by reiterating how wonderful the offer was and how much it brightened up another wise gloomy day. I am also going to claim that this part of my reaction was driven by the fact that it did bring up the subject of my death and funeral after all, and who wouldn't be uncomfortable around that?

Here goes: Ginger wrote that Roger plays in a Shrine band and... and... Darn it. I couldn't help but imagine a bagpiper riding on one of those little bikes while trying to balance and play the pipes at the same time.

There. I said it. I am so sorry. But it didn't seem right to be showing myself to be a deep, sensitive human being able to discuss actual funeral arrangements, without admitting that I'm not that deep and my sensitivity can be an on again/off again thing. It didn't help that off all the scenes in all the movies I have ever seen, one of my favorites comes from Woody Allen's early effort “Take the Money and Run.” It shows Woody's high school marching band taking part in a parade down Main Street when around the corner comes Woody... playing the cello... dragging his chair with him, and trying to sit and play every few feet.

I know there have been numerous times in my journey with cancer when I've distressed people with how I look at my situation. I hope this is not one of them. Roger's offer touched my heart in a way that not many things ever have. Ginger's part in it spoke volumes about the kind of person she is. And me? Well, sometimes I just need to laugh.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere