Ever wondered what life will be like when you’re 90 years old? I didn’t think so. I wondered it once, but it was because I was watching a local TV newscast about a 90 something year old. He was on the news because he had chased burglars out of his house at the end of a shotgun, while wearing only his underpants. Yep, really slow news night. He didn’t have a twinkle in his eyes. He was all stooped over and wagging a bony finger at the camera. A really big booger was at the edge of his nose. At least it looked like it was a booger. In French, of course, you pronounce it boo-jay, which I think is altogether more artful than buu-gurrr; which is how we say it in Texas. The old fellow was a mess frankly, but after all he was 90-something!
On that particular night I wondered what life might be like at 90 plus. Then I tired of the thought, with it being unpleasant and all, and I went on to think about sex and beer and fast cars. At one point I thought of them in all in the very same thought. It was a combining of the best ingredients of life into a virtual banana split of thinking. Yes, I’m aware that last sentence makes no sense whatsoever, yet any mental cases reading this are nodding their heads up and down and grinning, because they understood it anyway. Caught you didn’t I?
Yesterday, I saw another video of a 90 something year old. In fact, the man is 92 years old. After watching it I understood a little more about grace and dignity. You can watch the video here . Before you watch it however, I should fill you in on some detail. The speaker is named Ernie Harwell. For what seems like the last one million years, he has been the broadcast voice of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with an untreatable cancer.
Mr. Harwell is dying. He knows it. The Tigers fans that love him also know it.
He was asked to address the home crowd as this baseball season grows to a close, a moment pregnant with poignancy since Mr. Harwell’s season of life will end shortly, perhaps before this seasons bats and baseballs disappear from the dugouts.
Imagine you have been told you are going to die very soon. Imagine you have to say goodbye to 45,000 family members, under the lights, in front of a microphone on television and radio. Then pray you might be able to do it this well. If you can do so, it will testify to the fact that you have come to understand the power of acknowledging the ‘joy of your journey’. Listen to 92 year old Ernie Harwell say goodbye.
I was recently asked to collaborate on a book, which is now in publication, in which I pontificate as if I were wise about understanding the joy of life’s journey. The joy of the journey is all important to the quality with which we walk through life. Without this understanding, we merely spend our time moving from one completed action to another. Understanding the process and joy of being involved in the action can bring us new understanding about pleasure, joy and fulfillment. Some have simplified the thinking to a simple catch phrase; ‘living in the moment’.
Mr. Harwell’s farewell is simple, yet charged with a complex dignity that I believe so few of us possess and may never attain. But, I pray to God that someday, I might in my own life approach this same level of dignity when I tell the world goodbye. I pray my journey will have been so complete that letting go of life can seem so easy and even joyful that the word ‘dignified’ is the only word that can come to mind. I just hope I don’t have to do it in front of a microphone with the entire state of Michigan watching.
Watch video here