Beauty that time or illness can’t diminish |

Beauty that time or illness can’t diminish

It’s a lie for a worthy cause. A lie to hopefully make someone feel good.

I said, “It’s good to see you, George, you look great.”

In truth, it was good to see George again, but he looked like hell.

Though George’s health was better than it had been for years, for me his appearance was shocking.

They say you’re never totally cured of cancer, it just goes into semi-permanent remission. Through mutual acquaintances, I’ve followed George’s bout, and perceived victory over the illness, but apparently his appearance had not caught up with his recovery. Cancer was one of the many hardships he has faced since our last meeting.

A divorce and financial challenges were heaped upon his shoulders of failing health. He was forced to move to a hot, lonely city to be near a doctor he felt had the best chance to save his life. With little money, and far from friends, he did what he deemed necessary to survive. Relying on the kindness of others and the begrudging generosity of the federal government could not have been easy for this proud man with a Ph.D. Of course, I say that with speculation, because despite those hardships and more, my friend was in great spirits.

He was pale, had lost an eye and lost some weight. When we hugged, I couldn’t help but notice his circumference was less than my slim wife’s.

Poor health hadn’t diminished his appetite. He ravaged a sweet roll while I drank coffee. He spoke briefly of his life during the last several years.

While he recounted his story and situation, I sensed not an ounce of complaint or self-pity. He told his tale quickly in answer to my questions.

But mostly, he wanted to be entertained.

There is no better audience than one that loves to laugh. While he sucked down a sticky bun the size of a baby’s head, I regaled my pal with the recent events of my dysfunctional professional life. I told of being forced to assume an interim role in human relations – one that I was neither interested in nor qualified for. While I spoke of my ham-fisted bungling at the helm of the “ship of fools,” George howled.

He listened intently and laughed with delight; I noticed he could still cry with joy from his missing eye. When I would try to bring the conversation back to my friend’s life and situation, I was given brief answers; I could feel George wanting me to continue being funny.

He laughed his face wet, all the while cheering me on with exclamations like, “Oh my goodness,” “You didn’t really say that,” “Oh Lord, Biff you’re crazy.” George knows crazy and the Lord; he’s a minister and counselor.

It was sometime during his meal and my monologue that a change came over my visiting friend. His appearance improved.

Maybe it was the fat and sugar of the cinnamon roll. Or perhaps it was the joy of visiting a place of good memories and energy, but George began to look better and better. His gaunt appearance was overcome by his love of life and his laughter overshadowed the damage done by years of pain.

George’s beautiful essence and spirituality penetrated my preconceived notion on the definition of human elegance. My mistake was looking at him through pity’s eyes, which blinded me of his faith and love of life.

The truth is, my friend – whether permanently cured or not – is, and will always be, radiant.

Despite challenges and bad luck, he loves his life and looks forward to the inevitable; the soul is seldom reflected in a mirror.

Seeing George in his frail brilliance reminded me once again that regardless what time, health or genetics, have in store for us all, we are only as ravaged, or vital, as our spirit allows.

Biff America can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA and KYSL radio, and read in this and other fine newspapers.

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