I was sitting in the office of New York City’s preeminent gynecological oncological surgeons when he brought up a quotation that had been mentioned to him, one he shares with both cancer survivors and the survivors of a cancer death: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice–get busy living or get busy dying.” For those of us who have suffered a profound loss, it says a lot. Perhaps the motto of the bereaved should be “get busy living.” Worked for me.
The quote is from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. It comes up twice. Here is the first mention [the second mention gives away the ending of the movie].
In researching this quote, I came across a very moving essay about living by John Brubaker in Huffington Post:
“Life comes down to a simple choice: You’re either busy living or busy dying.”
It isn’t just a quote from a movie, its advice for all of us. One of my mentors, Coach Don Meyer passed away last Sunday. He was proof of the power of perspective and the right mindset. On September 5, 2008, Coach Meyer’s car collided head on with a truck and it nearly killed him. The accident shattered all his ribs, destroyed his spleen and tore his diaphragm. He also had part of his left leg amputated. Additionally, when doctors were treating him they discovered inoperable cancer of his liver and small intestine. Coach was hospitalized for two months, but he returned to coaching. While in a wheelchair at courtside in January 2009, he surpassed Bob Knight as the winningest coach in men’s college basketball history with his 903rd victory. That same year he won the ESPN ESPY award for Perseverance.
Meyer’s primary emotion after the accident was gratitude, here is what he told the media:
I can now fight with all of my ability.”
From the day of the accident forward, despite his diagnosis, Coach Meyer chose to get busy living. He retired from coaching in 2009 and continued to serve others as a speaker and mentor and by raising money for a cancer treatment center in Aberdeen.
Shortly after his diagnosis, I interviewed him for my book and in our conversations he learned my daughter was hard of hearing. He sent her a one-legged Don Meyer bobble head doll and a handwritten note to let her know she wasn’t alone. She has a constant reminder on her shelf that there are lots of other people succeeding in the face of adversity. They are busy living!
He did that gesture of kindness for her, yet he also did it for him. You see, gratitude is the antidote to fear. Coach Meyer shared with me after the surgery, that the first time he bent down to tie his shoes and realized he “had to” put his prosthetic leg on he cried. Then he realized he “got to” put his leg on and it took on new meaning. He got to continue to teach, mentor and inspire others in this new season of his life. Busy living indeed!
On Thursday I shaved my head in solidarity with Coach Meyer. I’m going to keep it that way as a reminder to maintain proper perspective. Live a “GET TO” life, not a “HAVE TO” life.
You don’t have to work, you get to. You don’t have to deal with that difficult child you’re raising, you get to. You don’t have to go to the gym, you get to.
Now Let’s Get Busy Living!