"Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth... I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for..."
~ Lou Gehrig
July 4, 1939
There are many times in life when we have a plan, execute the plan, and get the desired results.
This is mostly the case with mundane life maintenance issues, such as getting a hair-cut, going grocery shopping, or registering your car at the DMV. These are simple connect-the-dot chores where there are clearly defined steps in getting the desire result.
This can also be the case with big things like graduating college in a field that has always interested you, buying that dream house, or marrying your high school sweetheart.
Then there are those times when we had a great plan, but something went wrong with the execution that forced us to abandon the plan.
Several years ago, I thought how great it would be to visit my daughter while she was completing a college study-abroad program in the Austrian Alps... I spent months preparing my itinerary and my travel plans with her. The morning of my departure, I was informed that all flights to Europe were canceled due to a volcano eruption in Iceland... that started a domino effect that ultimately caused the entire trip to be canceled.
The plan was sound... but something unavoidable or unforeseen happened along the way to spoil everything.
In 1923, at the age of 20, Lou Gehrig, the son of poor German immigrants, dropped out of the engineering program at Columbia University and signed for a bonus of $1,500 to play professional baseball for the Harford, the farm team for NY Yankees.
Two years later, Gehrig was called up by the Yankees to replace an ailing Walter Pipp at first base. Gehrig continued to play first base... each and every game for an incredible 2,130 consecutive games.
Although he often suffered great pain and injuries (including a broken hand at one point) he continued playing and was dubbed the "Iron Horse".
By the end of the 1938 season, he was running on fumes as the season ended. It was the first and only full season that Gehrig didn’t hit at least .300.
The following season, Ironman Gehrig was noticeably weaker and on May 2, 1939, Gehrig removed himself from the starting lineup.
Shortly thereafter, doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed his condition as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is commonly known as "Lou Gehrig’s Disease". Gehrig officially retired from baseball on July 4, 1939 at a ceremony in front of 62,000 adoring fans at Yankee Stadium where he gave his immortal speech about being the luckiest man alive. (Click here to read the full speech)
Less than two years later, Gehrig, the Iron Horse, would succumb to the disease at the age of 38.
Sometimes plans just don’t work out... because life is full of twists...
A few weeks back, I wrote a blog that described my annual cycling routine... stating that I wait until Daylight Savings begins before starting a rigorous training campaign lasting through October...
Last Sunday afternoon, I took my first ride which consisted of 28 miles along a mostly flat course.
It should have been a relative easy ride (even with the months of down-time), but I struggled and it took all of my effort to complete the ride.
The following morning, I awoke with a high fever and a certain case of the flu which has kept me bed-ridden all week.
It has been at least 10 years since my last real illness so I guess I’m fortunate... however the lack of any real illnesses has lulled me into a false sense of security (or smugness) believing that I was just too healthy to get sick and that any illness was really just a state of mind... if you didn’t give in to the sickness... then you weren’t really sick.
While a brief bout of the flu is in no way, shape, or form on an equal par as contracting ALS, I really think I needed this little reminder that some people really do live each day in pain or discomfort.
Many people who suffer from chronic illnesses or debilitating diseases didn’t necessarily choose this path... but here they are... trying to live one day at a time.
They are trying to keep their minds focused on their work or other important parts of their life only to be constantly interrupted by pain, sleep deprivation, or side-effects from medication that they need to take.
This is very much the case with our ever-increasing aging population.
These are people, who at one time, commanded respect with dignity and social standing. They were productive members of our society and drivers of innovation and change.
However today, they can no longer provide the same level of productivity that they once generated. They are at the mercy of their caregivers, families, or volunteers who stop by every so often to visit.
Now I’m still a relatively young person... but there will be a day when that is no longer the case.
There will be a time in all of our futures when we all will surrender to the inescapable.
We never know if we’ll be the one to catch that "bad break", leaving any semblance of our normal lives in the rear-view mirror.
This is the primary reason we need to stop wasting those precious minutes that we actually have and start living each one of our days as though it could be our very last.
Of course we need to still work to take care of our responsibilities, but we also need to take special care as to build strong relationships and doing the important rather than just the immediate.
Maybe we are the ones who are being friends to those who can no longer care for themselves...
This last week, I had several phone calls and texts from friends who somehow learned that I was ailing.
Said in many different way, "What can I do to help you?" was the general theme of their messages.
Although I didn’t feel so good on the outside this past week... inside, I felt like the luckiest person on earth knowing that I have so many friends and love-ones who care enough to care...
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we are often humbled by our supporters and fans.
Jim Kalb President
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Website - www.optifuse.com
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