Who Will Carry Your Casket?

I’ve already written more than 10 topics for The Last Train.  My mind has been on fire the last two weeks, consumed with thinking and writing…and then thinking and writing even more.

So here goes…buckle up…The Last Train is about to leave the station!

The man I admire most in life is my father, Al Schmahl.  He was the long-time Managing Editor of the Grand Island Independent the third largest newspaper in Nebraska.  He was a pillar of strength and leader in the community.  A man who possessed an abundance of wisdom, love, and kindness.  I was the beneficiary of my dad’s wisdom over the years and he shared with me often his fatherly advice.

There are two things dad said to me I treasure most.  The first I’ll tell you about was four simple words he spoke three weeks before he died.

While my dad possessed an abundance of strength and quiet confidence, he had one weakness.  Despite his strong Lutheran faith…my dad feared death.

You see, no male in the immediate Schmahl family had lived past the age of 53.  When my dad hit 53 it was a tough, even paranoid year for him.  He couldn’t stop thinking…wondering…if this was indeed going to be his last year on earth.

He made it to 71, and here are the four words he spoke that I’ll never forget.  In a quiet moment together, I leaned over to get closer to his bed and said “Dad, do you fear death?”  He slowly turned his head and looked me straight in the eye with the most honest look I’d ever seen and said in his now weak, raspy voice, “No, I’m just curious.”

But the most powerful lesson I learned from dad also became a philosophy I’ve lived by for the last 35 years.

Dad had about 10 very close friends, most lived in Iowa or Minnesota but a couple of them were from Nebraska.  He was very loyal to these friends and one of his top priorities was to remain close to these special buddies.

I asked him when I was in high school why he’d invested so much time to make sure he stayed in touch with these guys. Here is what he told me.

“Having close friends is really important to me, men that you love almost like brothers,” he said.  “Because in the end, you want to have those special friends with you carrying your casket, or you carrying their casket.”

I have those close special friends in my life too, who will be there to carry my casket.  There’s Roacher, Scotty, Pettit and O’Shea.  Wode, Timmy C, Meier, Kenny, and Shot. Brian, Vance, BB, John and probably a few others I’ve failed to mention.

But you know what?  Let’s beat this cancer so that I can be on the giving…and not just receiving end of this deal!

Medical/Personal Update

Chemotherapy sucks!  They may call chemo a drug but it really is a poison.  They dump a bunch of liquid into your body through a permanent “port” sewn into your chest.  The chemo goes in and kills cancer cells but it also kills a lot of good, healthy cells in the process.  After each treatment, there are guaranteed side effects.  Weakness, body aches, nausea and many others.  My sister Jill, a cancer survivor who was only given a five percent chance to live, says chemo is like getting a three-to-five day dose of the flu.  Many cancer patients will tell you the cure is worse than the disease.  But chemo has saved millions of lives and is a part of almost all cancer treatments.  Most cancer survivors suffer negative side effects from chemo for the rest of their lives. But they are all thankful for this wonder drug that gave them the gift of more time on earth.

My first chemo treatment was awful!  I suffered from severe dehydration and had to be hospitalized for two days.  When I went to the emergency room my blood sugar level was 693 (normal is 120).  I felt so sick that I wondered could this really be it? I knew that some people stricken with pancreatic cancer don’t last long, but I thought one month…really?  I lost 14 pounds in 7 days.  At the hospital, they immediately began giving me fluids through an IV and also put me on an insulin drip to get my blood sugars back to normal.  In 36 hours, I felt great!  It was a testament to the wondrous and miraculous ability of the human body to heal itself.  What a marvelous creation by God!

My second chemo treatment went much better, PTL and thanks for all the prayers! I felt a little tired and groggy for a few days, but my appetite remained strong and by day five I felt better and had pretty good strength!  I will be taking insulin shots for the rest of my life to control my blood sugar level.  Producing insulin is the job of the pancreas and mine is no longer working as well as it once did.

Next Stop: Nicknames & Tattoos.  Not kidding, but stay on board I think you’ll enjoy the topic.  ☺