A Change in Plans
(I am excluding some names and locations from this article for privacy reasons)
Today for work, I headed out to do maintenance on a SCADA system that been planned ahead of time with a city power plant employee about two weeks ago. Upon reaching the site I noticed that he was no where to be found and when I asked about it I was informed he retired last Friday. Now two weeks ago while we were planning this, I had even asked him when he was planning to retire. He had told me he was still thinking he would work for around three more years so I found this news to be quite surprising. Until they told me that last Friday he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. He never even came back into the office and I can't say I blame him, I probably would have done the same.
Plans don't always go as expected. And some of the best thing that happen in our lives are not in our plans. Erin and I planned on having 4 kids when we got married. Here we are four years later with 3 of them, just very much not the way either of us had planned for them to come into our lives. We moved out into the country with the plan to start construction on our house in 2017 and here we are 2 years later breaking ground. I have been told that I am a fairly good planner and honestly my plans do usually work out in one way or another. A plan is really just a combination of a goal and the steps you want to take to get there. I think most people envision process like a piece of string with the start on one end and the goal on the other. The problem there is as soon as one step fails they don't know where to go. I try to envision a plan more like a spider web. There is a set start, a set goal and of course the shortest path between the two points. But there are also a lot of other routes I can take if the one my initial plan fails and there are staggered in such a way that I don't have to go all the way back to the beginning to take the other route. It is harder to plan this way because it requires you to plan on failing. Everyone will tell you that if you plan to fail you will and I believe that as an overall statement that is very true. But what they don't tell you is if you don't prepare to fail you won't be ready if that happens. We always say at our house that one should hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and pray for somewhere in between, a variation on Maya Angelou's "Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst and expecting the unexpected." But what do you do when you are faced with that absolute worst case scenario. The truth is there is no good answer but I think ultimately people tend to response in on of three ways.
The first is just go on like nothing happened. There was a city superintendent we worked with for years that found out he had late stage lung cancer. The day after that appointment, people he worked with say "he just showed up for work like it was another day." He went through the exact daily routine that he had for years right up till the day he died. Worked the same hours, bowled at the league on Tuesday nights, took his grand kids to the movies every Friday after work. If you asked him about it he would just say "life goes on, the only difference is now I don't have to worry what I am going to die from."
The second is fight with everything you have. Medical technology advances by the day anymore. What may be incurable today, will probably be as simple as a twice daily pill someday. When I started dating Erin people, medical professionals said that if you had multiple sclerosis you were destine to just slowly get worse till you couldn't walk anymore and the side effects of the medicine you took to keep it at bay killed you. 8 years later and there are twice as many medicines for people newly diagnosed that are three times as effective. People who these don't work for have options as well. My wife was using a walker for over a month 3 years ago. Since Lymtrada, she has ran a Tough Mudder, hiked mountains, went scuba diving, and reigns over three wonderful little children daily. If you fight a good fight you can win. It is not a guarantee but it does happen.
The third and probably the hardest to watch is people give up. I was real young at the time but I am told that when my great Uncle Joe got sick he sat on his front porch for a week straight just staring out at the family farm were he had lived his whole life. When people asked if they could do anything for him, he would say "No, I am only going to be here a little longer, so just sit and chat a while." I am told he kept his smile right up till the end, but I know that is not always the case for people that just sit and wait to meet their maker.
We spend a lot of time in our daily lives making plans. Where we are going for lunch. What we want to do when we get off work. When we are going to go to wake up. I know I usually have my whole day planned out in roughly 15 minute chunks before I even get out of bed in the morning. These plans have to be flexible enough to allow a little variation but there is no good way to plan for news on that scale. Life changes fast and our time here is limited. So don't waste time being mad at people you love. Spend some more time talking to your family and a little less watching the TV. Try something you have never done before when you get the chance, you might not get it again.
I pray that this message finds you in good health and of a sound mind. I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and I hope that you have a good rest of your day. I am just another confused father from Kansas wondering...
HOW DID I GET HERE?