|Yes, I am a Rich Man!|
Why would I want to stay alive?
I had no career. My insurance company had, through a bit of pre-Obama legerdemain declared my cancer a pre-exiting condition. My life's savings was gone, my mortgage was on the brink of foreclosure, and I had lived 50 years with severe clinical depression that had led me to try to die more than once. So what did I have to live for?
I lived by holding on to three dreams.
The first was literally a dream. Shivering in my Percocet induced haze, I dreamed again and again that I was flying. Not just flying, but running in the air, high above the world. I never did fly, but I finally got to run, first one, then a second full marathon.
The second dream was about love. I dreamed of growing old with my wife. She nursed me, fed me, held me, cleaned me, and loved me back to health and I thought that dream would also come true, but as so often happens after cancer, our lives drifted apart. The love that kept me alive was not enough to save our marriage so the second dream died instead.
The last dream was partly a memory and partly a hope. Five years before being diagnosed, I had played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on the big stage at the UK Arboretum. Thousands of people saw us play, and I never forgot the feeling of each of them trusting me to carry their hearts along through that beautiful story of love and redemption. "Please God, let me play again. One more time, let me act again." And of the three, my prayerful dream of acting was the one that God would most fully answer.
Shelly Levine, William Hastings, King Lear, Abner Dillon, Edna Turnbladt, Admiral Boom, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Frankenstein's beautiful, terrible Creature: How I loved them all, and how they blessed me. I have walked with giants and geniuses, and gotten the chance to play with people who have taught me so much about a craft I thought I had mastered. And at the end of the closing matinee of Mary Poppins, as an Opera House full of cheering children and teary parents opened their throats and our hearts I thought to myself, "If this is it, if this the last one you have for me Lord, it was worth it."
One quiet evening, a beautiful woman asked me why I acted. "I want to change the world. I want to help people to think; to laugh; to forget; to remember. I want the world to be a better place because I walked around in someone else's skin and told the truth for a few hours."
Dreams don't all come true, but some of them do. Did I change the world? The jury is still out, I suppose. But I'm not giving up yet. God's timetable has some surprising stops along the way. Which reminds me. Waaaay back, late in the middle of the last century, a high school senior glued on some fake sideburns, sprayed on some gray hair, and spoke these words: they still ring in my mind's ear. Now that I think of it, they may have been the inspiration for this blog's title. Their echoes give me hope that no light, however dim, is ever really doused.
Keystone Oaks High School, 1978
with Anita Martin as Guenivere
"Who is that Arthur?"
"One of what we all are, Pelly. Less than a drop in the great, blue motion of the sunlit sea. But it seems that some of the drops sparkle, Pelly. Some of them do sparkle! Run, boy! Run, boy!"