Living One Day Longer Than My Father


As a cancer survivor, I’ve found many reasons to celebrate. Here’s one more.

My dad died in 1989, he was seventy. He had a few medical challenges at the time, including prostate cancer. I was just thirty-nine years old then and in the best physical shape of my life; a competitive runner with more than a dozen marathons and scores of 10 K races completed, working full time in my dream job as a stage magician; married, healthy and happy. Little did I know that cancer was circling like a black cat in my own future and the future of my wife as well. Stage 4 ovarian cancer took her life twenty five years ago.

My father’s death injected a stark reality into my seemingly stable world. It opened my eyes to the inevitability that I too would die one day, just as he did. I recall hoping that I could live to be seventy years old like him and suddenly, here I am, a man with seven decades of life behind me. How quickly these thirty-one extra years have passed by!

Not too long after he died, I had a curious thought. Death certificates show the date and time of our passing, but the years are depicted in round numbers. He was seventy years old, but I realized that this figure was wholly inaccurate. His birthday was on April 18, 1917 and his death on October 28, 1987. He actually lived seventy years and 193 days. As a cancer survivor who has way too many friends and family members who have succumbed to this disease, I am acutely aware of how precious an extra 193 days can be.

On this day in January 2021, as I write this at 4:30 in the afternoon, I have lived exactly one day longer than my father. 70 years plus 193 days to be exact.

I’m happy about that in an odd sort of way. The memories of my Dad have been replenished by acknowledging this occasion, and the realization that I have lived six productive and fulfilling years since my male breast cancer diagnosis is good news indeed. I’m encouraged by that accomplishment.

But more than that, and more than ever, I am grateful for every day of my future, however long, or short that may be. The lesson I’ve learned: Every day really does count.

By the way, my dad died on the golf course. Hole number 16. It was thought to be a heart attack aggravated by a recent surgery he had. His friends, who were playing alongside of him, said it was quick, silent and remarkable. He simply dropped his golf club, slipped to the green and was gone. According to his scorecard, which I keep in a special box in my office, he was having a pretty good game at the time. If only I could be so lucky.

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